Imbuing static objects with an inspiring sense of motion compels sculptor Glenn Saborosch to create.
“I am challenged by taking a most solid and unmoving material and expressing the opposite with a figure that moves impressionistically through space,” said the Missouri native, recently transplanted to a Neeses farm where he and his wife, the artist Lee Malerich, live and make art. “I am interested in the physical composition and expression of the three dimensional moving figure,”
In his hands, in his mind’s eye, representative pieces – human figures, equine, and most recently canine – appear freeze-framed in steel. “As I go about my day, it is almost as if I record a continual video, noticing figures and their spatial relationships as they interact with their environments. Artists have always noticed this phenomenon, and some compositions expressed by the figure have evolved into romantic, sometimes iconic visual statements,” explained Saborosch.
During his career in the transport industry – during which Saborosch logged thousands of miles – he had plenty of road time to take note of evocative scenes or snitches of potential subject matter. As soon as his hands were free from the wheel, he’d thumbnail them on a scrap of paper and stuff them into a pouch until he had time to sketch them out in more detail.
Works that could only be described as more abstract than his usual figurative pieces are a relatively new exploration for this sculptor. Once they cool from the heat of his deftly-handled torch, they, too, appear nearly animate in their captured sense of movement.
Over the four decades Saborosch has been sculpting – interspersed with stretches of time for family rearing and work – his process has evolved, although the basics have been intractable since he settled, even before college, upon metal sculpture as his chosen artistic expression. “The techniques I use start with the traditional practices of welding and application of a patina to steel.”
Early on, Saborosch knew that steel was the right material for his art. “By now I have worked with steel for more than forty years.” Saborosch explains his preference. “From wire to sheet metal as the raw material, steel can be composed to express fluid movement or look like a solid cast object. I find its versatility very compelling and use it in all its forms. I start with preliminary sketches and sometimes use maquettes in designing larger work. The nature of each piece I create demands that I consider not only the contour lines and shapes that define my figures, but the negative spaces that occur between them,” he explained. “It is in these spaces that activity and interest is integrated into the piece.”
Though starting with grey sheet metal, Saborosch achieves color variations in the finished piece by keeping a close eye on the metal’s changing coloration as heat alters it. Experience enables him to create finished sculpture with blue or amber patinas. “On some works I add highlights of brass or copper to warm up the pieces.”
More of his works are in private collections than in galleries or museums, so he was pleasantly surprised to discover, not long after he married Malerich and moved to South Carolina, that one of his favorite patron couples had also moved to the area.
Clayton and Catherine Henke, now of Lexington, already had acquired five of Saborosch’s sculptures before they relocated from Columbia, Missouri, to South Carolina where Clayton joined the White Knoll High School faculty as a guidance counselor.
“We first were taken by a large piece of Glenn’s work we saw at an outdoor art fair near our home,” recalled Clayton Henke. “But it was sold. We expressed interest in purchasing a smaller version, so that became our first. In time, we bought another work that has two components, and we’ve added the others since.”
The Henkes had no idea they would ever encounter Saborosch again when they took a leap of faith to move to South Carolina. “I wanted to give my wife a special piece to bring with us for our new home. When I contacted Glenn to see what new pieces he had, I was stunned to find out he was moving here too,” Henke said. “Now that we are both settled here, I think we live closer to each other than we did when we were all in Missouri.” The couples have reconnected for a visit in South Carolina.
The housewarming addition to the Henke’s collection is showcased prominently in the foyer of the couple’s new home in Lexington. “We get so many compliments on this one, and here, the other pieces are placed in spaces that allow us to see them, enjoy them every day. I have always liked sculpture more than paintings because of the medium’s three-dimensional qualities. I’m a very tactile person anyway, and you don’t touch paintings,” Henke acknowledged.
Although works in the homes of collectors are seen only by their guests and families; that does not apply to a Saborosch sculpture on view just outside Tokyo, Japan. His most visible piece by far is seen annually by thousands of thrill seekers visiting Tokyo Disneyland. The story of how he was chosen to create an original work for display in such a high traffic venue is nearly as good as the fairytale whose heroine he was commissioned to interpret.
“I got a call on my cell phone one day as I was driving,” recalled Saborosch, who for much of his business career drove for an international freight line. When the voice on the other end of the call announced herself as a representative of Walt Disney Imagineering, Saborosch figured he was mishearing or being scammed.
“I explained that I was on the road and asked if we could continue the conversation when I got in a better situation to hear.” When the conversation recommenced, he learned the selection team choosing art for Tokyo Disneyland had been impressed by exampled of his work they found in The Sourcebook of Architectural and Interior Art. Once negotiations were settled, the sculptor went to work depicting one of Disney’s most beloved icons.
In Tokyo Disneyland, Cinderella’s tale is interpreted in six story beats. The beat for which the Disney organization commissioned Saborosch was the scene depicting the Grand Duke slipping the famous glass slipper on the fairytale figure’s petit foot. “I was asked to work to very specific dimensions and specifications, with little room for interpretation,” recalled Saboresch. His sculpture was part of the 2009 endeavor that celebrated the remodeling completion of the Cinderella Castle, a key attraction in the expansive theme park outside Japan’s capital city.
“Within the spatial specifications I was given, I knew Cinderella would not fit in the space provided if she were seated in a chair, the Grand Duke kneeling to try the slipper on her foot. So I have her standing; he is kneeling. Obviously, steel would not lend itself to an interpretation of a glass slipper, so I had the slipper chrome plated, making it more visually pronounced.”
Saborosch has not yet been to Japan to see his most significant commission to date, on view in an ornate display cabinet along the wall in Cinderella Castle. But he hopes to travel there someday. When he gets there, he will find his Cinderella, still poised to receive the slipper that will prove she is the girl of the prince’s dreams.
Back in reality and much closer to home, Saborosch recently unveiled another piece that surely will be seen often – although not by as many as Cinderella in Japan. For the foyer of Glenforest School, where his teen-age son Garrett studies and runs cross country, the sculptor created a very special piece. The figure is a child who has emerged from a stifling, frustrating one-size-fits-all learning environment into one where children are taught the way they can learn.
Now, Saborosch is contemplating his next sculptural project. For ideas, he flips back through his sketch book.