From New York to Los Angeles via Istanbul and Taos

Winning an Emmy in 1990.

After working in network TV for a decade as a graphics producer in New York, I decided to try something new and took a teaching position at Bilkent University in Turkey for two years. Upon returning to the States, I opened my first sculpture studio in Cooperstown, in rural Upstate New York.

Twelve years later, I moved west and began working in Taos, New Mexico, the legendary high-desert town of Agnes Martin, Georgia O’keeffe and D.H. Lawrence.

My Taos studio was a shack with no running water or insulation.  It had a plywood roof that leaked like a sieve during the spring snow melt.  But it had a splendid view of Taos Mountain and intrepid clients found adventure in the pilgrimage to see my work. It was an isolated haven of creativity.

Gialanella’s studio in Taos, NM.

During that time, I was exposed to Native Indian culture and ideas that influenced my view of our responsibility for the stewardship of nature. Ecological concerns had always been a part of my motivation to create images of animals, but I began finding a way to express a deeper message even as I developed practical solutions to the problems of building sculpture.

Larry Bell in his studio in Venice, CA.

In Taos I met Larry Bell who had studios in both Taos and Venice Beach, California.  In his Taos workshop Bell showed me how he created metallic finishes on glass and paper using a hi-tech process called thin film deposition. Larry had a coterie of counter-culture artist friends in Taos that included Dennis Hopper, Ken Price, Dean Stockwell and Ronald Davis. When I visited Larry at his studio in Venice Beach, I began to see the possibilities of living and working in Southern California. In 2010, I left Taos and moved to Los Angeles.

After exploring the glitzy, garish LA art scene, I went into the studio and destroyed many of my early works. I began to gravitate toward abstraction. I started work on a series of assemblage orbs made from discarded stainless steel objects – pots, pans, hubcaps and pet bowls.

Assemblage Orb on exhibit at the Orange County Center for Contemporary Art in Santa Ana, CA.

I first developed this curious pack-rat technique of joining dissimilar objects together in Taos, but in LA I began using it to make non-objective forms. I called these conglomerations of objects, “midden” sculptures.  The term midden refers to a dump for domestic waste which may consist of animal bone, botanical material, vermin, shells, shards and other artifacts and ecofacts associated with past human occupation.  In a consumer culture that promotes materialistic excess evidenced by conspicuous over consumption, planned obsolescence, hoarding and the production of massive amounts of garbage, the midden work offered a new perspective on the pervasive cycle of production, consumption, and destruction.