Gino Miles is a sculptor and art teacher who creates large-scale sculptures that are usually made from either stainless steel or bronze. His pieces are abstract, polished, and eye-catching and some of them can even be made to rotate, thus seemingly dancing in the air. Gino has been an active artist since the 1970s, and he is strongly influenced by the masters of 20th Century European art including Marini, Moore, Archipenko, and Brancusi. Inspired by both classic figures and nature, Gino’s art seeks to convey harmony between human beings and the natural world.
Gino attended the University of Northern Colorado and attained a Master of Arts in Sculpture. After studying and living in Italy, with a handful of others he helped establish a school for German and American students called “Italart” located outside the city of Florence. Once he returned to the United States, Gino and his wife settled in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and raised three children. Gino continued working as a sculptor, and his works attained much acclaim across the globe. Currently, his creations are held in many private and permanent collections including Disney Corporate Headquarters in California, the Evansville Museum in Indiana, Bowling Green University in Kentucky, the Lakeland Museum in Florida, and many more.
Gino’s forms are elegant and frequently minimalistic which renders them almost hypnotic to behold. Recently, Gino Miles discussed his career as an artist and his plans for the future:
Meagan Meehan (MM): What inspired you to start creating art?
Gino Miles (GM): Coming of age in the 1970’s, I met a couple of teachers as a student at the University of Northern Colorado who inspired me to follow an artistic way of living. I had two professors, William S. Cordiner and Paolo Barucchieri, who gave me an amazing education and my first experiences at discovering art history. I also received their assistance in living, making art and sculpture, without worrying about where my next meal was coming from. Due to their encouragement, making sculpture became a way of life which continued with my family—the support of my wife and my kids—who have only known me as a husband and father who is a sculptor. That forty-years of their support and encouragement made it all work. There were times when I could have stopped without succeeding, but my loved ones wouldn’t let me. There was nothing else for me to do.
MM: How did you get into making sculptures?
GM: In 1973, I was living outside Florence, Italy, probably the best city for sculpture in the world, with ancient and modern works available. I actually made my first sculpture in a class in Perugia, Italy, and was able to proceed making terra cotta sculptures at a very minimal cost with the assistance of the local brick yards. From there, I studied stone carving, bronze casting and eventually progressed to fabricating metal.
MM: What’s the biggest sculpture you’ve created? What’s the process of creating big pieces like?
GM: In 1986, I made a large public monument called “The Grapecrusher” that is quite large and regionally known. In 2015 and 2016, I created my largest fabricated pieces—”Shelter” and “Zia.” “The Grapecrusher” is about 15′ tall plus plinth and is located in Napa, California. It is cast bronze. “Shelter” is a fabricated bronze piece that is 16′ long and 8.5′ tall. It is meant for visitors to walk through. “Zia” is 15′ tall with a 8.5′ turning radius and is fabricated stainless steel. The making of large-scale sculpture necessitates working with the assistance of other workers and companies to produce your vision. This can be a very rewarding as well as taxing process. It entails large financial sums, so it’s always a huge risk and, hopefully, leads to large reward.
MM: Some of your art also turns! Is that difficult to set up?
GM: The turning mechanism is a simple post wheel and pin system that was created a long time ago. Sometimes finding the right balance of the piece can be difficult. The most important thing is that by turning a piece people can interact with the work and see different views in different light.
MM: What materials do you use most? Which do you hope to start using in the future?
GM: Currently, I am using stainless steel and bronze. I like them both. Bronze is more classical, stainless is more modern. My work is free-formed welded pieces where the welds are ground off to create a continuous, seamless form, tending to become larger. But just recently, I produced my first miniature in gold. I would like to investigate working a bit further with gold and silver.
MM: How many pieces have you produced and do you have a favorite?
GM: In the more than forty years that I’ve been sculpting, I’ve produced many pieces–I have no idea how many, probably hundreds. They range from figures to animals to abstracts. I have favorites from different periods. In my current work, I have two pieces that I really love–one is a stainless steel piece called “Wanderlust” that is in a private collection, and the other is a fabricated bronze called “Shelter” that I hope to place in a public space so many people can enjoy it.
MM: Was any piece particularly challenging?
GM: It’s funny because some of the small stainless steel pieces are more challenging for me to make than very large ones. To get to a point to create and produce high-quality large sculptures is an expensive and very taxing process. I enjoy the challenge in trying to perfect the form, regardless of size.
MM: How did you initially get galleries to show your work?
GM: The gallery situation is very tough. I didn’t have gallery representation until the last few years. I work very hard promoting my own career and owned my own gallery for several years. I was fortunate that I am a good salesman and the difficulty of making large-scale sculptures made my job sort of unique. So, when I did a show, they stood out. It took several decades to become recognized and have galleries want my work.
MM: What was it like to study and live in Italy in the 1970s and 1980s?
GM: Wild, crazy, and a wonderful way to spend my youth. In the first few years, Italian men went absolutely insane for American girls, and I was put in the role of translator and protector, somewhat like the fox guarding the chicken coop. Everything was very cheap, Italians were over the top generous to all us Americans, and great food and wine flowed all the time. But, all that said, living among amazing art and seeing masterpieces first hand was a life-changing experience that had an enormous and profound impact on me, especially when you consider where I grew up–a very rural, farm community in western Colorado.
MM: Can you describe your school, “Italart,” and what you taught there? Furthermore, why did you focus specifically on American and German students?
GM: Italart was started in the early 1970’s by a handful of Americans and Italians, including Paolo Barruchieri and me, in an old monastery outside Greve in Chianti, near Florence. Paolo had the vision to educate American students about art history by actually taking students to visit Italian masterpieces of the Renaissance and earlier periods, rather than teaching art history sitting in a classroom in Colorado via a slide show. If you were studying painting, he took you to see great paintings and talked to you about the use of color, light, shading, the philosophy of art, etc., then you returned to the studio to try to use what you learned. Focus in the early years was on American students because they had the money to travel and we were initially associated with the University of Northern Colorado. As years passed, several other universities began sending students (Colorado State University, Kansas State, Texas A&M, among others) and we also did some workshop/vacations for German adults, teaching things like Italian cooking, art history, and sculpture. As a graduate assistant and after I received my Master’s degree, I taught design and sculpture classes.
MM: You now live in New Mexico. Do your surroundings influence your work at all?
GM: Absolutely. My wife and I decided to move to Santa Fe while we were still in Italy because I am not a city boy at heart and Santa Fe seemed to be the only small town that had an art market. As a sculptor, I think I was able to more easily fit in with others in Santa Fe than might have been the case if I had moved elsewhere. I worked my way up by working in a bronze foundry, then I opened my own business doing enlarging and bronze finishing for others, then I worked in an art gallery, and finally I opened my own gallery, which I had for several years. I have reluctantly taken a break from having my own gallery because the shows I have been doing are more lucrative and they require so much travel that I was unable to do both. But the beautiful nature in New Mexico has influenced my work even more than living in an art town. As a boy, I was initially influenced by the Colorado National Monument, located close to where I grew up, with its massive beautiful rock formations. New Mexico combines the beauty of desert with mountains. Simple things in nature, such as the way morning glory vines tie themselves in knots, became the beginning of my knot sculptures.
MM: What shows is your work currently in? Will you be unveiling any new public works soon?
GM: My busiest season—which is December through February in the Miami area—has just ended. It was very successful, and it takes an enormous amount of organization, energy, and money to do so many shows in a very short period of time, especially with the logistics of moving and storing large sculpture. I am currently taking a bit of time off to regroup, reorganize, and replenish myself, all the while planning my next pieces and finishing some commissions that are in progress. I have lots of new ideas for sculpture and for shows that are in the works.
MM: What are some of the biggest perks and rewarding aspects to being a professional artist?
GM: I have a number of collectors who have become great personal friends. Some of them own multiple pieces of mine. The joy and love they feel for my work is very rewarding. I also love it when kids come up and look at their reflections in the stainless steel pieces.
MM: What advice can you offer to a person who is striving to become a professional artist?
GM: You have to be willing to sacrifice a ton of time and persevere through difficult times. It’s an ongoing process that I am still struggling through.
MM: Do you have any future projects or events that you would like to discuss?
GM: I would really like to place more pieces in public settings. That’s my goal in my immediate future. I’m also pursuing different sculptural forms, but I have no idea what they will look like yet. But I sense a change coming in what I will produce. That’s what keeps it exciting– finding something new and also something old in a new light.
[Featured Image by Gino Miles]