Immortalizing the West: Q&A With Western and Wildlife Sculptor Al Glann
Now on view at the entrance of the City of Tucson Parks and Recreation Department is the aptly titled “Red Stallion,” a bronze sculpture by Al Glann. Donated by collectors Bill and Roberta Witcher, the more than 10-foot-tall, firetruck-red sculpture and captures a stallion in a dynamic, standing-up pose—ready to leap into action at any moment.
Glann, a Tucson-based artist who has been sculpting for more than 35 years, is known for his stylized horses, which have been featured globally in the U.S., Canada, England, Amsterdam, Italy and Australia.
We sat down with the artist to discuss his decades-long career and the inspiration behind his work.
Q&A With Sculptor Al Glann
What’s the story behind “Red Stallion”?
“Red Stallion” started out as “Black Stallion” which was based on an old TV show called “Fury.” It is one of those dynamic poses for a horse that I just had to do. I was working on a few larger horses and explored using primary colors. It became the “Red Stallion” because I just loved the bright red, and it made a strong visual statement.
Wildlife is a common subject featured in your work. Did you grow up around animals?
Growing up on a 500-acre farm in central Ohio, I was always around animals and wildlife. I had neighbors who had ponies and horses, and I was always fascinated by them—there is a real connection between man and horse that always intrigued me.
What about them intrigues you the most?
I love the different personalities of horses and their unique energy. To watch them run is just amazing—thundering around a track or across a pasture. There is also the simple elegance that you find in a horse calmly grazing or just looking at you.
A lot of your work embodies the Old West—can you tell me more about this influence?
I grew up in the ’50s and ’60s, and everybody was into Westerns. They were probably a third of the shows on TV at one point. Also, when I was 5, my family drove out to Cody, Wyo., and stayed at a relative’s ranch on the mountains. It was a dream come true for a little buckaroo.
What attracts you most to sculpture, as opposed to other art forms?
I have always been attracted to building the three-dimensional form. Being able to make your design work from different points of view is always a challenge. Henry Moore was a master of that with the female form. You could usually find one specific angle in walking around his sculptures that was the perfect definition for the female form. Move a degree to the left or right, and it’s gone.
How would you describe your work to someone unfamiliar with it?
I really want to capture the movement, personality, and spirit at a singular moment. The gesture is giving the viewer just enough information that they understand what they see and fill in the rest of the image, thus they become an active participant in the sculpture.
Can you describe your artistic process for us?
With all of my animal or human forms I always look for a unique pose or action. It can be very dramatic or subtle. Having taught human anatomy at Columbus College of Art & Design, I am looking at the bone and muscle structure to work off of. Where is the distribution of weight; what muscles are contracting; and how is the balance created? I play off these elements and think about how the positive and negative shapes interact to create a sense of a quick gesture drawing. It can take me a week or two to get how I want it to be on the initial designs. It is not a quick process. I’m literally placing these shapes in space to create for overall form. It’s a challenge every time I do it. And yeah, I’ll tear it apart and redo an area that just isn’t working like I want it to—it’s a process, like most creative endeavors.
You’re known for your bold color choices and patinas. Can you tell me more about this? How do you settle on a look that feels complete?
I am always looking for the perfect patina. It gets close sometimes. Between what I do on the steel and what the foundry does on the bronze, it is always changing. I always want to find something a little different than I did before. It’s the “what if” syndrome.
What’s your favorite material to work with?
I have always enjoyed working in steel. I can manipulate it in a lot of different ways and for what I want to create. It works great for what I want to do. I have worked in clay, foam, plastics and wire, but I always come back to steel. If it falls on the floor and is still fine. It’s durable!
How has living in Tucson inspired your work?
I have always been drawn to the Southwest—there is an openness here that I connect with. I think its history and culture are very much a part of everyday Arizona, which I really enjoy. There are many areas of this state that are still untouched.
How would you describe the artist community there?
When I moved to Tucson in 2011, I was hoping to find the artist community here. I have spent the last 10 years at the Metal Arts Village. Tucson is more laid-back than Phoenix, and that is important to me. I’m glad to say that I have been very fortunate to become friends with a number of different artists in the Tucson area. It is a smaller but a well-connected group of people that I really enjoy being around.
Who or what are your biggest inspirations as an artist?
I have many artist friends that I take as much inspiration from as I can. I enjoy going to different museums and galleries when I travel. I just love seeing what the creative mind can come up with. A number of my former students have become very successful designers and artists, and I love seeing their creativity flourish. And, of course, out of the famous artists: Henry Moore, Frans Kline, Louise Nevelson, Picasso, Van Gogh, Michelangelo, Giacometti, Rodin, Brancusi, Matisse, and many more!