Uses a whole lot
January 23, 2003
The sign at the entrance
to sculptor Gary John Gresl's studio, a two-car attached garage in its
former life, warns visitors "prepare for crowded conditions."
Indeed. The space
is jammed with his tools, sculptures in progress and raw materials --
such as a wicker dress form and leftover pieces from a large, dismantled
antique model airplane. His home, too, is crowded with sculptures and
paintings, many found on the secondary market, and his finished work.
It feels a bit like
stepping into one of his colorful, crowded mixed-media sculptures, with
seemingly incongruent objects arranged carefully into what he calls "visual
-- I Remember Grandma" features an old-fashioned sock monkey, jars
of red peppers, children's wooden alphabet blocks and dozens of colorful
buttons of various sizes. Another piece, festooned with tiny seashells,
includes a flying fish of milk glass, circa 1900, holding a Christmas
ornament turned gazing globe, and antique fishing lures dangling from
metal netting. Others feature mounted deer heads, skulls of various animals,
shells or feathers.
All require a second,
third and fourth look to discover the details.
"Life is like
that," says Gary, explaining that archaeologists uncover cities layer
by layer, and individual lives build up the same way. "Our beings
are like that."
Painting used to
be his preferred medium, but he says he found the depth the sculptures
allow him more fulfilling.
Work tells a story
Gary, now the president
of Wisconsin Painters and Sculptors organization, grew up in Manitowoc
and became an art teacher and middle school principal in Brillion. He
moved to the Milwaukee area in 1974, just after getting his master's degree
in home economics, studying textiles, at the University of Wisconsin Madison.
He became a partner in the Milwaukee Antique Center in the Third Ward,
which has helped him find the wildly varying materials for his sculptures,
which evoke a history not necessarily his own -- a family's, an era's,
"It wasn't just
me" who made them, he says, referring to the mystery, or previously
untold story that guided his hands in creating each piece of what has
been called the most original artwork being created in Wisconsin today.
a comfortable home
Gary moved to Brown
Deer in 1987; his then-wife grew up in the area and they found it affordable
and convenient to downtown. He is the father of two sons, Josh, 23, who
works with him at the antique center, and Jonah, 21, who is a student
and still lives with his father and their blind, affectionate 11-year-old
Shih Tzu, Dulcie.
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