Art Beat


By Pat Sherman
Photos by Brevin Blach (except where otherwise noted)

Is the local art scene nurturing the next Michelangelo, Monet, Warhol or Leibovitz? Either way, there’s little doubt its creative output would tickle Dali’s ‘stache and make the Mona Lisa bare her Chianti-stained teeth in unabashed joy.

From avant-garde to the fine art vanguard, San Diego’s art scene is teeming with raw and accomplished talent, including these Finest City impressionists, surrealists, illustrators, mixed-media makers and metal and glass masters.

Heavy Mettle: Hardworking glass and metal artisans take the heat
A delicate, glass-blown vessel and a sturdy cast-iron sculpture may seem worlds apart, but both are shaped by intense heat and artistic vision.

San Diego is home to an array of accomplished glassblowers and metalworkers, including a thriving community of glass artists in North County, and a group of metal casters making molten magic out of the UCSD Crafts Center.

James Stone, Stone and Glass studio Bernardo Winery
For James Stone, a former video production salesman turned glass artist, bigger is better. The artist’s towering glass and copper seascapes reveal his passion for ocean conservation.

“About five years ago, I took a dive vacation to Grand Cayman and I was shocked at the devastation to the reefs and the total loss of diversity,” says Stone, who studied at Palomar College and at the Pilchuck Glass School started by Dale Chihuly, whose works include a 2,100-square-foot, hand-blown glass ceiling at the Bellagio Resort in Las Vegas.

Two of Stone’s works are in display at the Chula Vista Nature Center’s Art Aquatic exhibit, showcasing a combination of sea life and glass art through Sept. 5 ( One of the pieces, the backdrop for a 150-gallon fish tank, is titled “Sheephead: Size Does Matter,” in recognition of the detrimentally overfished California sheephead.

A nearly complete, 50-foot glass and metal mural at Stone’s studio, located at the Bernardo Winery in Rancho Bernardo, is titled “Last Call Before We Eat Them All,” portraying the fish that man is eating into extinction.

Garry Cohen Glass Ranch, Escondido
A longtime instructor in Palomar College’s glassblowing program, Garry Cohen opened Glass Ranch studio in the picturesque community of Del Dios, near Lake Hodges.

Cohen and his wife, Cherrie, earn a living by selling their brightly colored bowls, vases and other gifts. The income affords the couple the luxury of being able to create more divergent pieces for their own interest, including a skeletal, glass hand clutching a human heart, and surfboards covered in glass mosaic.

“I’ve been working with old ’78 records that have been altered and made into these sculptural forms,” says Cohen, who offers glassblowing demonstrations and tours of Glass Ranch’s grounds. “We’re trying to elevate our sculpture garden all the time to offer people a great experience.”

Nicole Deline,
UCSD metal sculpture instructor Nicole Deline enjoys giving cold, hard steel fantastical shapes reminiscent of the works of Spanish architect Antoni Gaudi or filmmaker Tim Burton.

“You think of buildings and strong structures, but when you add heat, it’s completely malleable and you can make these whimsical curves,” Deline says of her medium. “It’s sort of making the steel look feminine, sort of contrary to what your notion of it is.”

To give her pieces a harder, masculine feel, Deline uses weathering steel, a combination of alloys that develop a rusty, weathered appearance when exposed to the elements, but only rusts to a certain point.

Her five-foot, four-inch tall steel, Mag-a-net, is on display through April 18 at the San Diego Botanic Garden in Encinitas (

Rich Stewart,
A metal casting instructor at the UCSD Crafts Center, Rich Stewart creates bronze and cast iron works that juxtapose themes of religion, mass-marketing and mortality.

Though working with bronze is a fairly seamless process, Stewart says, iron is much less reliable, requiring a team of craftsman and often temperamental furnaces.

“It’s a pretty violent sort of mold-pouring activity-a very dangerous dance,” Stewart says. “The metal just kind of explodes out of the bottom of the furnace at 2,500-degees Fahrenheit or more.”

Stewart’s piece, “Right Tool for the Job,” features the likeness of Mickey Mouse on a crucifix, conveying how once pure ideas can be subverted to justify a personal or collective cause.

“Digging My Grave,” inspired by the William Elliott Whitmore song of the same name and the work of Andy Warhol, is Stewart’s self-described “funerary piece.” The sculpture depicts a shovel digging into a mound of name-brand soaps. A space in the back of the piece inscribed with Stewart’s name and date of birth awaits his ashes and departue date. “I figured I had to build my final piece and then I could move backwards from there,” Stewart says.

John Brockley,
John Brockley’s cast iron and steel sculptures capture an uncanny expressiveness in the repose of postmortem mammals. Each is suspended by what appears to be a frame like those used to hold the pieces of model airplanes in place.

“I always liked the design of those matrixes,” Brockley says. “I was basically (offering) a model for something that had no instructions, so you’re kind of left to your own devices to make something out of it.”

To capture detail in the animals, Brockley viewed dozens of photographs of hunters posed next to their kills-from deer to mountain lion.

“It was kind of a weird resurrection of the animal that they had just killed,” he says.??????