Donald Gialanella, originally from Maplewood, NJ, now works out of his studio in St. Petersburg, Florida. After earning a BFA from The Cooper Union, Donald apprenticed with Louise Bourgeois, an influential figure in modern and contemporary art. He worked as a graphics producer at ABC-TV in New York in the 1980’s and received an Emmy for his work on Monday Night Football in 1990. With an international teaching appointment at Bilkent University in Ankara, Turkey and a host of public sculpture commissions to his credit, Gialanella’s art career has been diverse and prolific.
"New ideas, different ideas, crazy ideas are the thoughts that change the world."
Louise Bourgeois and Don in 2006
I earned a BFA at The Cooper Union in 1979 majoring in sculpture. I studied with Hans Haacke and Vito Acconci, Kenneth Snelson, Charles Simmonds, Jim Dine, Milton Glazer and Louise Bourgeois. In Jim Dine’s drawing class, he would set up an elaborate still-life of glass bottles each week. We drew from the still-life for three hours and then completely erased our drawings to start over anew on the same sheet of paper the next class. We repeated this drawing and erasing procedure for the entire semester.
When Louise Bourgeois returned to see the hole I made in her wall, she smiled and said, " You break
through a wall without knowing what is on the other side?"
After graduation, Louise Bourgeois asked me to be her assistant. I was both thrilled and slightly apprehensive at the prospect of working with her. Always the wry provocateur, she tested my resolve on the first day. Ushering me up a flight of stairs in her Chelsea brownstone, she opened up a closet door and pointed to an inside wall. “You will make a portal”, she said and then walked away. On the floor sat a lone pickaxe. I swung it repeatedly into the wall. When she returned a half-hour later and saw the hole I put in her wall, she smiled and said, “You break through a wall without knowing what is on the other side?” She then added a terse, "Very good."
After leaving Louise’s studio I moved to California and took a job as a newspaper illustrator. After a few years learning the news trade, I returned to New York in 1982. At that time I started working at ABC News as an artist in the broadcast graphics department. I was attracted by the idea of creating images that would communicate a concept, not just to just a few people, but to tens of thousands, even millions of viewers.
At that time an electronic revolution was underway where pencils and brushes were being replaced by digital art. Specialized computers geared towards artists would forever change the way graphics were created. Becoming expert at these new tools, I experienced a meteoric rise in responsibility and soon I was in management working as a graphics producer. I won an Emmy in 1990. After ten years in network graphics I knew I had to make a choice - either grow old as a TV executive or leave ABC to be an independent artist. I chose the latter and never looked back.
"Few people ever rose as quickly in the cut-throat world of TV graphics as 26 year-old Don Gialanella." ~ Ben Blank
It was a long way from the bustling halls of ABC to the lone walls of the studio. During this transition, I accepted a position teaching art and design at Bilkent University in Ankara, Turkey, and moved overseas in 1994 with my wife and two young sons. Over the next two years I painted and taught.
The European attitude towards artists was very different from what I experienced in the US. Artists were admired as an integral part of society and I felt encouraged. Towards the end of my tenure I had a solo show at Ars Gallery in Ankara, entitled Evrim ve Yokolus (Evolution and Extinction).
Since 2007 my primary focus has been public art.
In 2019, I was commissioned by the City of Pompano Beach, FL., to create a sculpture that will be displayed at the beach for one year. After a year, it will be submerged in the ocean and attached to the deck of a sunken ship, the Lady Luck, in Shipwreck Park.
In 2019, I was selected to design two sculptures to address streetscape aesthetics with iconic and potentially interactive public art that serves to engage vehicular drivers and sidewalk pedestrians at Winton Drive and experimentally enhance the outdoor entrance to the Legends Community Center for approaching visitors in Jacksonville, FL.
Also in 2019, I was chosen to create two sculptures illustrating the Monarch butterfly migration in Riverside, MO.
In early 2019, I was named as one of three finalists to create an assemblage snowboarder memorial sculpture for the Town of Breckenridge, CO.
In 2018, I was awarded the commission to create a monumental interactive sculpture entitled, Synesthesia, for the Town Square project in Boynton Beach, FL. See video presentation here.
In 2016, I was commissioned by the Dali Museum in ST. Petersburg to create a large steel Mustache sculpture for the permanent collection.
My pieces have won the “People’s Choice Award” in all three of the sculpture loan programs I have been involved in over the past two years, in Napa, CA, Northglenn, CO, and Lakeland, FL.
in 2015 a life size Bison sculpture was purchased by the City of Northglenn, CO and permanently installed in their sculpture garden. Also in 2015, I created a 12 foot tall Running Hare sculpture installed on historic route 66 in the City of Kingman, AZ.
I was awarded a 2014 commission from the Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital in Palo Alto, CA, to create a landmark assemblage sculpture of a life-size Cow made out of repurposed toys for the lobby. I was named a finalist for the 2015 Remnants Restored project in Blue Springs, MO, to create a steel sculpture using recycled steel from the old water tower.
In 2013, I won two public sculpture commissions from the Cities of Napa and Pasadena. Also in 2013, I received a commission from Arrow Electronics, an international electronics firm based in Denver, CO, to create a large Orb assemblage sculpture. In 2011, I was a finalist for the Heisler Park Sculpture Project in Laguna Beach, CA and was shortlisted as one of three finalists for the McBean Transit Center Project in Santa Clarita, CA, in 2010.
In 2009, I was shortlisted for the $500,000.00 St. George Cathedral sculpture project in Perth, Australia. In 2007, I was chosen to create three monumental public sculptures for the City of Albany, NY, that were installed near the New York State capitol building.
Plenum Orb Sculptures
The Plenum Orb sculptures allude to memories locked up in abandoned objects. Using a palette of familiar stainless steel items, I create large assemblage spheres that contain a mix of surprise, irony and humor.
These orbs are made up of common pots, pans, pet bowls, hub caps, coffee creamers and vessels of every description welded together into one contiguous form. The repurposed artifacts are things people bought and eventually discarded, according to the vagaries of personal status and cultural values.
This work comments on our curious relationship to the life-cycle of utilitarian objects. Seen as a mass of shapes formed into a single sculptural entity, the orbs act as time capsules that explore temporality, disposability, and questions the viability of a material based culture.
Private collectors of Gialanella's art include Angelina Jolie, Uri Geller, Jimmy Buffett, Howard Stern,
psychiatrist/TV commentator, Keith Ablow, president of the NCAA, Mark Emmert, Atlantic Monthly
owner, David G. Bradley, and film and TV producer, Mitchell Cannold.
I use reclaimed objects as the building material for a series of.midden sculptures. Fetishistic clusters of toys, tools, utensils, electronic
game components, computer hardware and a myriad of mass produced plastic objects are given new life as figurative sculptures. These pieces
Found Object Assemblage
My studio is inhabited by buckets of curious metal scraps and gears that look like R2-D2 exploded. A mix of driftwood, transmission parts, piano keys, medieval looking tools amongst boxes full of plastic toys comprise the incongruous and slightly surreal milieu.
The piles of toys were the raw materials for a life-size cow I created for the Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital on the campus of Stanford University in Palo Alto, California. The sculpture is made entirely of toys, hundreds of toys stuck magically together to form a very large cow.
I developed this curious packrat technique of joining dissimilar objects together when I was living in Taos, New Mexico. I call these conglomerations of objects, “midden” sculptures. According to Wikipedia, the term midden means a dump for domestic waste which may consist of animal bone, botanical material, vermin, shells, shards and other artifacts and ecofacts associated with past human occupation.
Our consumer culture nurtures a materialistic mentality that is evidenced by conspicuous over-consumption, planned obsolescence, hoarding and the production of massive amounts of garbage. My midden work is about this pervasive cycle of production, consumption, and destruction. Which, more often than not, results in flooding of our world and the oceans with landfill junk, plastic and rejected objects.
Uri Geller & Gialanella With Dr. Keith Ablow and sculpture Sisyphus Peter Jennings and Gialanella
Gialanella's work is exhibited in public spaces, museums, galleries and private collections worldwide. He is a member of the Sculptors Guild
and LAVA, the Los Angeles Visionaries Association.