Karl and I have known each other for many years. When we first met he was a crazy funny circus guy doing a fabulous job making a creative living while single-parenting his beautiful little daughter. We share an alternative outlook on work and following a path of creative inspiration to pay our bills. (And, funnily enough, we both own churches!) Years passed and our circles connected here and there spinning into the future, happy to know the other is out there creating interesting things. When my family landed in Pittsfield in 2006 at the former Notre Dame church, it was heartening to find a large piece of Sculpture by Saliter just across the busy street from our home. When I interviewed Karl for this piece, I found a note taped on the door heading out of his house that reads: Be a Source of Love on the Planet. Precisely Karl. Thanks.
Share with me a little bit about yourself and business.
I am Karl Saliter, 46 years old. I live in Cornwall Bridge, CT, where I keep a pretty messy studio, outside of an old church where I live part time. My work in sculpture takes me all over the world, my most recent, far-away piece, was a 9-foot turtle egg for the city of Akumal, Mexico. This month I made some cool stuff for the CT Commission on Culture and Tourism. It is in Hartford, in a foundation recipient show at their gallery at 1 Capitol Center. Today I dropped off a piece for a show at Noble Horizons in Salisbury, CT. Saturday, I will bring a large piece to the Ober Gallery in Kent, CT.
Who has been most influential in your work?
The most influential sculptors on a practical level have been Peter Busby and Tim Prentice, two very accomplished artists who have been crazy generous in helping me find my way. Who do I most look up to? Calder.
In Circus Arts, I learned everything from Mark Farneth of the Can Do Circus. And, from watching the Muppet Show.
When and How did you know to follow your entrepreneurial path?
I was 19, and I knew from watching my dad, that I stood a good chance of becoming obsessed with my work, whatever it was going to be. I decided that given that probability, then my work should be primarily fun. Then I met Mark, watched him do a street show, and I knew this was for me. With the sculpture, when I was seven I read an article in Highlights magazine, "How to Make a Turtle." They described how you get a flat round stone, and five small round ones, and glue 'em together with Elmer's Glue. It worked! Then they said you could paint it, and that worked too. My turtle was awesome, and I have had the gift of being over appreciative of myself as an artist ever since.
Where do you find your inspiration?
Lately, in meditation.
Aside from working, how do you spend your time?
I do yoga, I teach yoga, I read a lot. I try to be alone a little every day, I hike.
What is your fondest memory? Why?
Texas, 1987, hitching cross country, tent pitched on a meadow overlooking the highway, sitting outside, playing the harmonica, watching the reddest sunset you ever saw ever. I was truly alive, autonomous, and deeply grateful.
If you were able to have lunch with anyone – dead or alive, who would it be?
What are you most passionate about?
Animal welfare,factory farming,people bullying those poor dudes who happen to have incarnated outside of our species.
What is a goal for your next 12 months?
I am closing in on some financial goals, but what could be less exciting than that? In my show, I want to introduce a marionette I had made by Lee Zimmerman, puppet master. I want to learn how to play it funny, have pulling it out and using it become smooth and easy, then grow a 5-7 minute improv piece from the puppet.
In sculpture, I hope to get this residency in Taiwan I've been applying to for years, clean my studio (HA!) and complete this series I'm doing called "Serial Ego Killer", parts of which are now in Hartford and at Endicott College.
Where would you like to be in 10 years?
In ten years I hope to be shifted entirely over to sculpture, doing only 12-13 performances a year, and creating work which I cannot even think of now. I plan for the sculpture to grow larger and more substantial for the next seven years, then implode, then come back from nowhere in a different form. But I'm open to whatever.
How would you like to be remembered?
A loving father, a very funny showman, a sculptor who redefined what is possible in play with form (no, that's not toooo lofty.) A dependable neighbor. A friend to miss.
Find Karl at Sculpture by Saliter – or on a yoga mat in Mexico.