Michael Galmer: Surrealist Jeweler and Sculptor
Michael Galmer aspires to give precious metal artists a new approach to attaining their artistic goals. His technical expertise, and love of art and sculpture are just some of the things that make his jewelry and sculptures meaningful and relevant. Below he shares with us the stories behind his style, and several of his masterpieces.
Repoussé has always drawn you in. Can you also describe your process a bit?
After a concept drawing, and a series of resin molds, I incorporate a version of a reverse molding technique, combined with hand chasing and advanced casting. This allows for the complex repoussé to be achieved. My ‘Galmer Technique’ (GT) will hopefully give aspiring metal artists a new approach to attaining their artistic goals.
In your work, you have honored the U.S. in many ways. Can you also chat about one of the works that was created as a reflection of that patriotism?
I was commissioned to do a lot of different works of art, but the Oklahoma punch bowl is probably one of the most memorable. The bowl belonged to the Oklahoma Battleship, and fortunately, was not on board when the ship was sunk at Pearl Harbor. The bowl was found by Oklahomans in 1946 at the Naval Shipyard and brought home. It was a very complex project, and I had to put all my knowledge and skills into it, to replicate the bowl. The original punch bowl is now on display at the Oklahoma Historical Society Museum. The Galmer replica is loaned by the museum and sits in the Governor’s Mansion in Oklahoma for use at state functions.
Your silver sculptures are poetic, with an existential meaning behind each. Many are now in permanent collections of leading museums. How do these pieces come to be? Are you usually commissioned by curators, or do you lead with a concept, and later find a home for it?
During my career, I worked on a lot of projects, and each of them was very special to me. To name just a few, I recreated the entire Louis Comfort pottery collection in silver, made a Snow White and the Seven Dwarves Punchbowl, as well as a Hess truck recreated in silver. There have also been multiple special commissions, such as: the 100-year anniversary silver-lined china set for Lenox; a replica of the famous USS Oklahoma Battleship punch bowl that sunk during Pearl Harbor in 1941; and a commemorative silver plate for DDG108 – missile destroyer of the US Navy. Every year, I also produce the Woodlawn Vase, the trophy bestowed upon the horse owners of the Preakness Stakes.
The list continues… I have worked with a lot of well-known artists. But, most of all, I like to work on my own monumental and philosophical sculptures. They are commissioned not by museum curators, but by my soul. I work on them for years, and put so much love and thought into each of them. I am so proud and lucky that some of them found their homes in American museums. I can visit them, and they are in good hands.
You have created some incredible religious pieces, such as “The Ten Commandments” and “Tears of the Holocaust.” Can you discuss the process that led to the decisions behind the dramatic and unique compositions for each? Both Judaica sculptures are uncharacteristic and moving in their aesthetic portrayal.
For me, “Tears of the Holocaust,” is a very emotional piece. This work was inspired by my granddaughter’s question about the meaning of the Holocaust. It is very difficult to give an explanation to a child. “How was it possible that so many human lives were lost?” My sculpture gives hope that after the tragedy, there is still a positive light. My work encourages the young generation in their resilience battle against the hardships they face in life. Love wins!
The Ten Commandments, on the other hand, is a symbol of the goodness of humanity. It is a message to everyone, all religions, that if the whole world follows these simple rules, life will be beautiful.
Let‘s talk about chrysanthemums. Across the board, you have many incredible florals in your jewelry and sculptures, yet chrysanthemums are the most prominent by far. In your latest work, you use them to shape a life-sized sculpture of a woman. Why chrysanthemums?
Chrysanthemum is a motif that I revisit again and again. I enjoy nature, and I include many different flowers in my work, but I regularly revisit the chrysanthemum. First, there is not just one but there are so many varieties of this flower, so you never really know it completely and fully. There is perfection to the chrysanthemum, a delicacy as well as a balance that has fascinated me.
Regarding the life-size Chrysanthemum lady—this modern woman is strong on the outside and inside. This is represented by the metal. She shines, as does silver, with ideas. She is blooming with chrysanthemums. They represent her passion, goals, and desires. They reflect both her achievements and dreams. She is proud to stand tall and powerfully, and doesn’t shy away from the limelight. She is who she is, and has no regrets.
Your ‘Lemon Set’ is iconic. What inspired you to create this everyday set and elevate it to a work of art? How did this peace inspire you to create later philosophical surrealist monumental sculptures?
Indeed, my Lemon Set is iconic to me. Despite the fact that it was created according to the American tradition of serving ice in elegant silver, my work is different. This piece has movement. You can feel the ice-cold water inside the pitcher, and the sour taste of lemon just looking at it. While working with this piece, I understood that I could show my feelings and express my emotions using this cold and shiny metal. It gives me confidence that I can create monumental sculptures. Today, the Lemon Set is proudly exhibited at the Renwick Gallery.
Tell us about your surrealist sculptures, specifically “Eternal Existence” and “Lust for Life.” Each of these represents perseverance and the human burden. How are you looking at these types of works against the backdrop of today?
Eternal Existence is drawn from a common theme of perseverance, persistence, and a drive for life. This sterling silver sculpture stands nearly 3 ft. tall. At the base, human legs support a heavy, burdensome stone, encasing and protecting a tree, which lies dormant, ready to bloom.
My metaphorical sculpture, ‘Lust for Life,’ encompasses the idea that through the grit, resilience, and a zest for life, one can break out of the most challenging situations, as witnessed by the fragile yet stalwart branch emerging through a seemingly impenetrable rock. It can sprout to be an inspiration to others.
As an artist, Michael Galmer demonstrates the ability to unite his many passions into an existential, physical dialogue, which deeply moves the soul. To find out more about his extraordinary work visit michaelgalmer.com and galmer.com.
To view a recent video interview ASJRA co-founder, Elyse Karlin, had with Michael Galmer, visit www.asjra.com and scroll down to click the link on the bottom to request access to view.