The big experiment -- Chad Glashoff follows in sculptor father's footsteps
By Shawn A. Miller
From The Daily Republic
SUISUN VALLEY - Chad Glashoff, son of successful local sculptor Phillip Glashoff, is an aspiring artist full of braggadocio and self-doubt.
"I want to develop the Picasso style in sculpting," Chad, 19, said while walking around his father's sculpture-strewn Suisun Valley ranch.
"Picasso's style of painting is so free-flowing, so fresh. That's what I want to try and develop in sculpting, where it looks like the metal isn't even touched; where it's just a natural form."
Later in the conversation, Chad, a 2002 Armijo High School graduate, sounds every bit like the college freshman that he is.
"Right now I'm trying to develop an image that's different from my dad that will be just as successful. But, oh my God, it's so hard. There's so much competition where I am right now and it's just hard to pick what I want to do," Chad said.
The advantages of being a second-generation artist come with the looming specter of influence and the danger of imitation. For while Phillip has made his way as a sculptor with little-to-no guidance, Chad was raised amid his father's work. Phillip's influence literally surrounded Chad.
"I knew nothing about art growing up," Phillip said, standing next to an unfinished 7-foot sculpture in his welding shop. "I was never exposed to it. I never saw it until I got out on my own. But then I immediately responded to it in a big way."
"Chad on the other hand has been raised around art his whole life. Plus he's going to art school. I went to ag school (at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo). So he's being exposed to a lot right now and has been for a long time. All his friends for quite a while were adults and were artists just because of the art shows that we went to," Phillip said.
Chad has done well for himself as a sculptor so far in no small part because of his father.
"If it weren't for my dad, I probably wouldn't be here talking to you about art," he said noting how his father hounded him to create a portfolio and organize his work.
Chad won first prize for his "Three Rings" sculpture at an art show at the Fairfield Center for the Creative Arts in April 2002 and said he sold his first sculpture at age 12. His most expensive sculpture - a Mexican banjo player - went for $2,800 at an art show in Palo Alto.
He now studies at the prestigious California College of Arts and Crafts in Oakland, though he returns home about every other weekend to sculpt in his father's shop since it's larger than the studio space at school.
The "Three Rings" sculpture marked a turning point for Chad and one that may characterize his later work.
"This is what really got me into abstract and geometrical shapes," Chad said, pointing to the sculpture. "I'm really into abstract sculpture which is something my dad didn't get into as much, maybe because it doesn't sell as well."
This isn't to say that Phillip doesn't do abstract work. Among the myriad figurative sculptures dotting his 20-acre parcel is a tall (maybe 15-foot) and narrow sculpture composed of metal grids and slivers welded at odd angles. Among his father's work, it's Chad's favorite.
"I like the proportions and the different types of metal," Chad said, admiring the piece. "I totally think if this sculpture was 50 feet high and 20 feet wide that it would be amazing."
"That's where I'm headed. Bigger is better. I say that to my art teacher at CCAC. He just looks at me and goes 'ah, the youth.' "
Tools of the trade
The tools of the metal sculptor are not those of the painter, as a glance around the Glashoff metal shop attests. Buckets and buckets of scrap metal culled from numerous junkyards fill the building, along with sculptures in various states of completion. The scene looks more like an auto shop than an artist's studio.
"The shop is where all the magic happens," Chad said.
"We always go to junkyards at least once a week, in the Bay Area, around Sacramento. Junkyards are pretty much another part of our lives. We're always digging though scrap piles," Chad said.
"My dad used to rent Penske trucks and he used to thrash them (hauling scrap). He'd bring 'em back and they'd be all dented up and they'd say, 'uh, sorry, but you're going to have to pay for that.' So my dad finally decided to get his own truck instead of pissing the people at Penske off,' Chad said.
The bodies of metal sculptors take a beating as well if Phillip is any indication. His face is perpetually tan from welding even during the bleakest, most overcast months of winter because he frequently forgoes wearing a face shield. His arms are also scarred from sparks and other occupational hazards.
"When I was around 6 years old, I put my hand on the torch for the first time," Chad said. "Right about that time I started really loving art. I didn't know at the time what I had - not my gift - but being in my situation."
"I watched my dad (weld) my whole life. He didn't think anything of it when sparks were flying around everywhere and his pants were on fire. I just thought it was a normal part of life. I thought that was the only way to do things."
Chad and Phillip use oxy-acetylene torches, though they forgo arc welders because their welds are too messy.
"We also use a plasma cutter, which is pretty much from Star Trek," Chad joked. "It pressurizes the air at such a high velocity that it can shoot through metal. It's just air and electricity and it pushed through metal. There's no gasses involved."
Home on the ranch
While Chad thought living on his father's ranch amid various - and sometimes grotesque - sculptures was normal, bringing friends over as he was growing up provided something of a reality check.
"It's still crazy (bringing people to the ranch). It's still fun. My friends are just amazed. They're all, 'you live here. No way!' " Chad said.
"I was 15 years old and my friends were like 'what are you doing, man? You're doing these sculptures with boobs? My mom would never allow that.' I was like, 'why not?' I don't understand. Sometimes I wasn't allowed over to friends' houses because of my dad and they just thought he was crazy. It's kind of hard sometimes to relate to people because . . . people think I'm a little weird."
He comes by it honestly. When asked about a real live zebra wallowing in the mud on the property, Chad said that it was just something his father got for atmosphere.
"My dad likes being weird, so he's as weird as possible," Chad shrugged.
Phillip's weirdness - and prodigious artistic output - took years to develop. While he's been sculpting for 24 years, he estimates that he's supported himself entirely through art for only the last nine or so.
"I was just kind of isolated on the ranch here," Phillip said. "It took a long time. It took 15 years to develop what I would call a commercial line, something that sells to the public. I went into co-op galleries right in the beginning and regular commercial galleries."
"Then seven years ago I started doing fine arts shows and that made all the difference because you're selling directly to the public. You aren't going through the galleries, so all the revenue is yours."
Phillip put on 22 art shows last year, he said.
He got the art bug in college while studying agriculture on the central coast. He took a welding class and helped build Rose Bowl floats. When he returned to Fairfield in the late '70s he fell in with designers at the Nut Tree such as Don Birrell and Wayne Thiebaud and farmed his land.
"He started out as a farmer. Our family has been here for over five generations. So farming has been a big part of our family," Chad said.
"His whole family shunned him away. They said, 'what are you doing? You're supposed to be farmer. You're going to college to be a farmer and now you're an artist.' It took the family a while to accept it before they said, 'well maybe he is doing the right thing.' "
"Dad really did have a hard time developing his art. I mean, he only got big 10 years ago. Fifteen years of his life was living in shacks and barely makin' it every month. It was hard and I was pretty much there the whole way. I kind of saw how he struggled and the importance of what he was doing and why he was doing it. He was doing it because he loved it. Look at where he is now. He's in a comfortable situation."
Though Phillip's manner is low-key, his decision to pursue art clearly seems to please him.
"Once you're in the creative side of your brain - your right hemisphere - it's a real comfortable place to be and you don't want to go out of it," he said. "I'm still fascinated with what can be made."
An education of an artist
Though Chad wasn't saddled with the chore of convincing his entire family that he should be an artist, he experienced some rough spots along the way all the same.
"What was hard for me was just realizing that I want to do art," Chad said. "Actually I was really stubborn about it. I said, 'Dad, I don't want to do art, I want to drive race cars or do something crazy.' I didn't really know what I wanted to do until my sophomore year in high school."
"I was getting in trouble and getting bad grades. I was really just a punk kid, pretty much. I went to precollege at CCAC. I went there in 1999. Once I saw college life, I fell in love with it. I said I want to do art; I want to develop my skills. It's in my blood."
Finding his own style and voice is Chad's current goal.
"That's what I'm learning right now in college is keeping away from my dad's style; developing my own style of art and developing my own meaning of art and what I think about art. I think that's really important," Chad said.
"I can stay doing the same stuff my dad does but it doesn't give me fulfillment in my heart and make me happy. That's what I'm discovering now. Before in high school I was just doing the same images my dad was."
An untitled abstract piece Chad finished last semester that includes wood beams as well as metal hints at his burgeoning new style. He also completed a whimsical sculpture of a cowboy with a lasso riding a rocket.
"My style is a lot more playful than my dad's. A lot more - not kid-oriented - but a lot more youthful. Like the cowboy with the lasso - just really friendly images people can relate to as much as possible."
"I mean, I don't do the nude figures as much as my dad. I kind of stay away from that. That's sort of his thing. And I'm kind of a little more rough. With (the abstract) piece, it's really rough. My dad wouldn't have done it so rough. That might just be because I'm still learning and my skill hasn't developed, but I think that's one of my styles, being more rough."
Chad is also influenced by the work of Mark De Suvero, a wheelchair-bound sculptor who works with enormous abstract pieces.
While he still has lots of college left and much to learn as an artist, Chad has designs on a future hammered out for him to a large degree by his father.
"Later on, once I graduate I'd like to return (to the ranch). My dad's getting really old and I don't think he's got very many more years left in him," Chad said, putting the matter more starkly than he perhaps meant to. Phillip is 53 years old. Ah, the youth.
"I'm going to eventually take the sculpting business over and hopeful develop it into something larger," Chad said.
This would be just fine with Phillip.
"He can do whatever he wants. He always has this (the ranch) in his back pocket," Phillip said. "If he can make a living doing art, it's a great way to go through life. I just would love to see him come into some sort of original style, which he's already really started with the (abstract piece)."
"I could see Chad had some talent early on. Chad is like the big experiment. Of course, now he's in an entirely different realm than I could ever hope for. Though we're the same, we're different."
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