Drawn to Metal

Posted On November 23, 2016

It’s always been about the welding torch for this sculptor.

By Rachel Haynie

Glenn Saborosch is a steel metalist. 

Such a superlative was not announced from an Olympics dais. The description has been manifested through his work’s inclusion by museums, featured in galleries, and purchased by patrons and collectors for well over four decades. The unofficial title has evolved naturally, from the sculptor’s formative years. 

Steel has been the medium of choice for Saborosch since he chose welding torch over paint brush around 1995. Now, he has a signature commission piece in Disney Tokyo where his interpretation of Cinderella trying on the lost shoe for the Grand Duke is seen annually by thousands visiting Fairy Tale Hall. Countless pieces are in residences of private collectors, discerning people who also have become friends. His work, informed by daily tasks and frequent travels, has become his creative persona. 

Using such a characteristically hard metal to achieve the impression of such fluid movement sets his pieces apart from the ordinary. “What challenges me is to take this solid, unmovable material – although certainly it is malleable when heat is applied – and have it express a figure moving in space,” Saborosch said. Meeting this challenge has the sculptor on perpetual alert for spatial relationships. “I must consider not only contour lines but the negative spaces between them.” He cuts away the steel armature as he adds elements.

In the hands of this sculptor, “Raw material, from wire to sheet metal, can be composed to express fluid movement or look like a solid cast object. I use metal in all its forms.” Starting with grey sheet metal, he achieves color variations in the finished piece with heat, watching as he builds how temperature is altering the piece, rendering some works with blue or amber highlights. “I have even applied chemicals at times to get the patina I’m looking for. And I clear coat my pieces as a last step, to protect them from rust and human oils attendant to touching.”

Pedestals and bases for his sculptures are self-built as well, sometimes continuing the use of metal, oftentimes incorporating clear Lucite. 

He cannot remember a time when he wasn’t drawn to metal. In the very early years, metal took the form of a small vehicle. “When I was as young as four, it was Tonka trucks. I still have the first four.”  When he got a few more years under his belt, he was a pretend driver during the in-between years before he got his first real vehicle, a 1927 Ford Model T. “Dad bought it maybe as a toy for me, but we never got it running.”

Saborosch was a sophomore in high school when his native talent revealed itself in art class. “I had tools for sculpting. a torch kit and welding tanks, but they were just for art. By then I already realized sculpture was more my medium than painting, although I continued to paint occasionally, and still do.” When Saborosch decided to make a truck out of a VW bug, “I used a hack saw and a sabre saw to cut through the wiring harness. I guess that was my first non-artist cutting.”

He recalled, “My own first old car was a 1954 Chevy truck. I spotted it out in a field, bought it for a song - with no warranty - and the engine blew before I could even get it home. Luckily, my future father-in- law had followed me over to pick it up. And, miraculously, the next day, after the engine cooled down, it cranked on its own. It took a lot of work to keep it running. I wish I still had it. It’d be worth a heckuva lot more than the $185 I bought it for.”

From such an early love affair with trucks, Saborosch went on to invest his career years in the transport business, an endeavor that heightened his attentiveness: to the road, to scenery, and to people he met along the byways. Now, as a hobby, he owns and cares for several vintage trucks and is a member of two vintage truck organizations, in South Carolina and the region. 

For Saborosch, art and function are like two hands clapping. A common denominator is a series he calls “Home Grown.” These pieces are sculpted from utilitarian material and, under his eye and from his torch, they become non-objective art. “I find a lot of the elements I use in these pieces at a country flea market my wife Lee Malerich (also an artist) and I check out nearly every Saturday morning.” 

His automotive experience enables him to identify the oddly-shaped, usually very affordable items being sold. “A lot of people wouldn’t know what these things are. I do, but it doesn’t matter what they were. I’m looking primarily for an interesting line and what I can do with it to give it a new future, an original narrative.” These Saborosch works have been described as gritty, quirky, and humorous. 

The new interpretations he gives these disparate elements provide a striking contrast to the representational pieces snapped up or commissioned over the years by collectors – from Saborosch’s native Missouri all the way to South Carolina. One collector couple purchased their first piece at an art fair set up near Saborosch and Malerich’s hometown, close to St. Louis.

 “After Lee and I reconnected and got married and I moved here, I discovered this couple I first met in Missouri was living in South Carolina as well – in Lexington at that time, although they’ve since moved to Summerville.”

Saborosch often is invited to have his work included in local exhibitions. In recent years he has entered multiple works in the 52 Windows Art Gala hosted as a fundraiser by MIRCI (Mental Illness Recovery Center). His work has been on view at Gallery West, 118 State Street, West Columbia, and recently at Tapp’s Art Center. For the late summer Planned Parenthood fund raiser, he exhibited “Focus,” a javelin thrower. A new creation, “Hydramas,” responding to the 1,000 year flood of 2015, was included in Marked by the Water, also at Tapp’s Art Center. 

The South Carolina State Fair was the most recent venue for the sculpture of Glenn Saborosch.