Reinvention.

I was 20 years old in 1986 when I walked into Dan Ostermiller’s studio and asked for a job. Up to then, I'd been helping my Dad build houses. I was young and naive and had no idea what it meant to be a professional artist, let alone understanding the much more specialized realm of the sculptor. I ground bronze and learned to weld it; we painted rubber and slung plaster to make molds; I learned pointing up and roughing in from maquette to monument. I put all this newfound knowledge to work, sculpting my own pieces and casting them in bronze.

The Crew at Ostermiller Studios, circa 1987.

Somehow, the artist in me that had previously enjoyed drawing and painting fell in love with form and space and shadow, and I spent every free penny I made turning my ideas into cast metal. Casting bronze is expensive, even with the discounts the foundries gave us “rats,” the green-tinged, bleary-eyed artisans who did the dirty work on the shop floor. I discovered Brancusi and stone carving, doubly excited by the cheap, plentiful medium and the thrill of turning an ugly rock into a work of art. Somewhere around this point in the timeline, Mr. Ostermiller and I had a falling out (I pissed him off) and I found myself once again walking into a sculptor’s studio to ask for a job. Kent Ullberg wasn't just the second sculptor I worked for, he became like a second father to me. The Swede opened my eyes to a more European view of the world and of art. He also entrusted me to manage his production at the foundry, as well as handling the enlargement of some of his most impressively-scaled works.

Serpentine carving.

There are a many more details and people and crazy happenings to recount, but that gets too far afield from my point. The stone carving and the metal grinding and the construction work, not to mention a detour to make a few thousand Chipotle chairs for my friend Bruce, took a serious toll on my physical health. Couple that with the inevitable diminishing of aging eyesight and a restlessness to move away from committee-driven public art, and you have the perfect recipe for a personal reinvention. And so it is with a bittersweet heart that I formally end my career as a sculptor, moving forward with excitement and trepidation into a future of greater creative freedom and less physical pain. Stay tuned to see what happens on the next episode!

NewsMark Leichlitermemoirs