Sculptor Stanley Wanlass motors his works into Hoffman Fine Art
Ryan Summerlin February 21, 2014
Internationally renowned sculptor Stanley Wanlass has known art dealer Don Hoffman, owner of Hoffman Fine Art and Exotics at Redstone, for more than 30 years.
The two met when Hoffman owned a gallery on Main Street and one in Carmel, N.Y.
"I have always admired Don for his artistic sense and abilities," Wanlass said during an interview with The Park Record. "I remember the gallery he had up on Main Street and he and his sister had not only great taste in art, but also in decorating."
The sculptor, whose works range from race cars and jalopies to monuments and statues, is thrilled that Hoffman is still showing his works at the Redstone showroom.
"Don and his wife Ioni have been wonderful to work with all these years," Wanlass said. "They have been able to show a lot of kinetic art and with all the furniture and exotic vehicles they display, they have added so much dimension that embellishes the art."
Wanlass, who makes his home in Sandy, has always been an artist, and began carving cars out of cakes of soap when he was in grade school.
"When I discovered clay, I went crazy," Wanlass said, laughing. "It was fun to express myself with a material that would cooperate with me. I felt akin to it."
At that time, the budding artist’s parents discouraged him from pursuing art because they didn’t think he could make a living, said Wanlass’ wife, Joy.
"He went into dentistry and medical school and studied anatomy and all of the different sciences," she said. "Incidentally, those studies helped him because he learned proportions of the body and kinesiology."
"I studied cadaver dissection and morphological anatomy and all the areas that would later help me with my exploration of using figures in my work," Wanlass said. "It also made me understand who I was."
One night in the mid-1970s, Wanlass drove past the medical school and noticed students were still at work and decided to quit studying medicine and focus on his art.
"At that time, Mark Rothko was probably the only person that was making it as an artist in the United States," Wanlass said. "I just didn’t know if I could make it, but there came a point when I said I didn’t care if I don’t make a living. I’m going to be an artist and starve to death."
His wife shared the sentiment and Wanlass supplemented his new livelihood by teaching art.
He first taught at Brigham Young University and then moved to Europe where he taught at the European Art Academy in Paris and the University of Grenoble in France.
He returned to the United States and taught classes at Oregon State University and the University of Oregon.
"At the time, there was really no such thing as automotive art," Joy said. "There were auto memorabilia, and people would collect trophies, lighters and other utilitarian objects that had cars on them. Stan wanted to sculpt cars so badly that I just told him to do it.
"We advertised and got a call shortly thereafter from an agent in New York who said, ‘Where have you been all this time?’" she said. "That’s when collectors from all over the world began to buy his art."
Wanlass’ clients included wealthy auto enthusiasts and even the king of Morocco, who, in turn, helped make Wanlass a pioneer in automotive art.
"Once they started buying my pieces, I called my friends and told them to use my works as springboards for their own art," Wanlass said. "I told them to change from doing landscapes to creating two- and three-dimensional automobile art.
"We then went to different Concours d’Elegance, the gatherings of prestigious automobiles, across the country — Meadow Brook in Detroit, Michigan, Pebble Beach in California and Amelia Island in Florida — to show our art," he said. "We started to make a mark so people would begin purchasing the works."
After the third year of sculpting cars, Wanlass made enough money to make a living and raise five children with his wife.
"It catapulted us into this fun situation and I no longer felt any guilt about not teaching, although I loved it," he said. "I felt I had given enough at the office."
In 1982, Wanlass and some of his colleagues started at the Automotive Fine Arts Society, a group of visual artists whose pieces are sought by art connoisseurs and auto enthusiasts around the globe.
"The goal was to develop the market even more," Wanlass said. "Consequently, things caught on so quickly that everyone wanted to become an automotive artist and they flooded the market, but these days, the ones that are left are the ones who are sincerely passionate about automobiles and art."
The artist has made it a goal to keep his edition numbers low.
"Some artists will make 2,500 or 25,000 casts of a work and call it a ‘limited edition,’ but in reality, they aren’t because the public won’t buy that many pieces," Wanlass said. "I decided that I was going to cast fewer pieces than there is a demand. That way, I’ll protect the investor, because the value will go up and not down. So I usually cast around 30 pieces of a single work."
He likes to focus on certain vehicles that are considered milestone automobiles.
"These are the ones that came about at pivotal points in history," he said.
One example is a piece is called "The Passing of the Horse," which features an automobile filled with people, racing past a horse and rider.
"Somewhere along the line in history, this really happened," Wanlass said. "Humans have relied on a horse before recorded history until my grandparents’ time. It was used as a beast of burden and transportation and then this new machine came along and passed the horse symbolically and historically. So that’s why I did that particular bronze."
In addition to automotive works, Wanlass has created other works of art including monuments and Western art.
One of his more well-known monuments, called "End of the Trail," is installed in the middle of Seaside, Ore. It depicts explorers Lewis and Clark gazing at the Pacific Ocean.
"This is one of a series of works that I was commissioned to do for the bicentennial of Lewis and Clark that began in 1980," Wanlass said. "All the sculptures celebrated the spirit of discovery and documented Lewis and Clark’s sojourn from St. Louis to the Pacific Coast and ultimately to Washington, D.C."
Although Wanlass has shown works throughout the world, he is grateful to Hoffman Fine Art for representing him.
"Don has only the best stuff and, consequently, attracts the best clients," Wanlass said. "I respect him very much."