Photo credits: Oli Robbins
Sal Gullo at work in his Placitas studio
Sunflower and ladybug sculptures, by Sal Gullo
An alchemist of sorts: Sal Gullo’s scrap to sculpture
In 1917, French Dada artist Marcel Duchamp made (art) history by declaring that a porcelain urinal could, in fact, be a work of fine art. He entered the urinal in an art exhibition, but it was rejected—despite the fact that the exhibition committee had promised to accept all works of art submitted. Duchamp’s so-called Fountain was refused on the grounds that it was not art; ironically, it has come to exemplify the anti-art movement and Duchamp’s gesture was seminal in fueling the “what is art?” debate. I was recently reminded of the Duchamp scandal when viewing Placitian Sal Gullo’s “scrap to sculpture” artwork.
Gullo, like Duchamp before him, takes objects that have an identity beyond the art realm, and transforms them into works of art. But whereas Duchamp oftentimes found objects and labeled them art, Gullo creates animal characters and other figurative objects from scratch. He pieces together scraps—usually mechanical—that “aren’t meant to go together at all.”
Artist-handyman Gullo was rarely exposed to art as a child, growing up in Long Island alongside cars and tools in an automobile repair shop run by his grandfather and father—the tools of whom Gullo uses daily. “I have a mechanical background,” says Gullo. “There I was, a grease monkey, out of school, playing in the shop.” He coupled his hands-on experiences with electronic and computer training, and has worked in the aerospace industry. Though he never received traditional art schooling, Gullo admits that art is simply “something that’s a part of me.” Always interested in assembling machinery, Gullo is now intrigued by “putting something together to make it either produce something or do something it shouldn’t do for no reason or purpose.”
“I’ve always been a dabbler,” says Gullo, “producing functional things for need, like a doorway or a small workbench or cart.” His predilection for making and fixing functional things organically gave way to an interest in non-traditional art, wherein those functional things assume new existence relating to other once-functional things in a work of art. Why not make something that works that’s also aesthetically pleasing?
“I started liking to put things together so as to enhance its functionality and charm,” says Gullo, whose garage/studio is teaming with fanciful ladybugs made out of freon barrels and birds comprised of old saw blades and gears. He explains that the majority of his materials were “destined for scrap metal,” but he altered their fate by incorporating them into works of art. “Recycle, upcycle, whatever you want to call it”—Gullo takes the old and makes it new. He laughs when explaining that one wouldn’t imagine engine pieces could provide so many options for the body parts of a bird. And he loves a challenge. “When people tell me ‘you can’t do that,’ I say ‘give me a chance!’”
Gullo, and his wife Deborah, who runs YogaCrossroads—a yoga studio (crafted by Gullo himself)—have lived in Placitas for 12 years. Their home is, itself, a work of art, and a work in continual progress, rarely going a season without being altered in some way. Since moving to New Mexico, Gullo has become more prolific, using more of his time to create. Our state has provided Gullo with not only time, but also inspiration. Some of his recent pieces draw on native creatures and the Placitas landscape.
Even those of us who can’t identify a crankshaft or a bearing will notice things like license plates, beer bottle caps, and wine bottles peeking out of Gullo’s whimsical works. Gullo recently made a series of snakes, the bodies of which are comprised of a metal wire, welded at one end, threaded through hundreds of beer bottle caps. He confesses to amassing a great deal of beer bottle caps on his own, but his collection is also indebted to both his son in Florida—who recently gave him two one-gallon zip lock bags full of beer bottle caps—and John at the Placitas Café, who saves them for him. Gullo has acquired a reputation for taking the unwanted. His friends and family will save certain pieces of their trash for him, knowing he’ll turn them into treasures.
It is difficult to succinctly categorize Gullo’s art. His works sit outside the traditional canon of fine art because his materials once had non-art, functional roles, and the finished works themselves offer the viewer a very physical—and often interactive—relationship. His work is not delicate, and one does not stand at a distance from it, looking but not touching. Instead, they are encouraged to feel and even play with the work itself. The snakes, for example, can be twisted to adopt a variety of different personas. The flowers on his large-scale sunflower statue—comprised entirely of scrap metal pieces, including an old colander, saw blades, and engine cooling fans—can be moved to spin like a wheel and blow in the wind. Gullo merges the worlds of art and life. I’m reminded of Robert Rauschenberg’s infamous statement that he tries to act in “the gap between art and life.” An alchemist of sorts, Gullo doesn’t just represent real-life objects, he uses them, giving them new meaning in fanciful works of art.
Visit Gullo’s website, www.scraptosculpture.com to view his images and contact the artist. A few of his pieces are also on display at Arte de Placitas gallery.
Corrales Bosque Gallery calls for artist members
The Corrales Bosque Gallery is an artist owned gallery that has been in business for 18 years. Twice a year they accept applications from persons who would like to have their work juried to become members of the gallery. The Corrales Bosque Gallery is currently calling for new member artists. The deadline for applications is June 20. Jurying is held on July 20, at 9:00 a.m. Applications and membership requirements are available at the Corrales Bosque Gallery at 4685 Corrales Road in Corrales, or online at corralesbosquegallery.com. For further inquiry, call 898-7203.
Duende Poetry at Placitas Winery
The second reading of four in the 2013 Duende Poetry Series will take place on June 16, at 3:00 p.m., at the Anasazi Fields Winery in Placitas. It will feature one of New Mexico’s most well-known poets John Macker of Santa Fe, and Andrea Serrano, one of the most dynamic poets in the Albuquerque area. Although the event is free, donations for the poets are encouraged. (Donation jar as you enter). Wine, free snacks, and non-alcoholic drinks are available to the audience. For further information, contact Jim Fish at the winery at firstname.lastname@example.org, or 867-3062.
To reach the winery, turn onto Camino de los Pueblitos from Highway 165 in the village of Placitas, across from the Presbyterian Church. Drive past two stop signs, turn left into the winery. From outside of Placitas, take I-25 to Exit 242, drive six miles to Placitas and follow Camino de los Pueblitos through two stop signs to the winery.
Songs of the Landscape
The wind makes no sound
The wind moves silently
Thru open air
The wind makes no sound
Trees give voice to the wind
And crevices in rocks
Each a unique wind instrument
A complex orchestra
Of infinite pieces
Filling the landscape
From the tiny flutes
Of the pine needles
To the oboes
Of the chasms
A complex orchestra
Of wind instruments
Responding to the wind
Giving voice to the wind
The songs of the landscape
Reprinted with permission from the recently published Songs Of The Landscape, a book of poems, by Jim Fish (email@example.com)
Goodridge at PCL
Anna Goodridge is an Indiana farm girl. Growing up, her playground was the woods, streams, cornfields, barns, and farm lanes around her house. This developed her powers of observation and gave her a connection with nature that can be seen in her artwork. Her selection of paintings displayed in the June Placitas Community Library art exhibit is a retrospective look at how life experiences open an artistic eye to growth, new techniques, subject matter, and creative experimentation. The show will be on display throughout June. For further details, call the library at 867-3355.
The City of Albuquerque accepted Placitas photographer Mary Lee Dereske’s image Capture for their photography exhibit “This Time. This Place.” The exhibit showcases images of Albuquerque Open Space areas. The exhibit will be open to the public from June 1 to 30, at the Open Space Visitor Center—6500 Coors Rd. NW, Albuquerque.
Capture is an image made in the Placitas Open Space. The black-and-white photo shows a delicate strand of horsehair captured by barbed wire on a weathered fence post.
“I walk in the Placitas Open Space several times a week,” says Mary Lee Dereske, “always with my camera, always looking at the way the skies, the land, the vegetation changes. Often I see the horses, coyotes, jackrabbits, and a variety of birds. The horsehair was only captured by the barbed wire for a day, and then was gone.”
Capture and other images will be available for sale. A portion of sale proceeds will go to the nonprofit Open Space Alliance to help support special programs and events aimed at preserving and promoting local Open Space lands.
The opening reception will be on June 8, from 3:00 to 5:00 p.m. Visit her website at: www.maryleedereske.artistwebsites.com.