Paul Leal was born on August 16, 1954. He received his Masters in Fine Art at UCLA, a prestigious program that only accepts a handful of students. He has two sculptures that are apart of the Corning Museum of Glass collection in New York.
Courtesy of LealStudios.Squarespace.com
Paul Leal, Pink Man Figure, c. 1990, Acid-etched cast glass, signed and dated 11" x 33 1/2" x 4".
Seraphin Gallery, Philadelphia, PA
December 04, 1996
By: Marilyn Martinez
A blob of molten glass at the end of a 4-foot metal blowpipe quickly took the shape of a horse's head as Paul Leal deftly rolled the pole across a wood workbench.
Leal's workmanship--oblong bubbles that he shaped into the horse's neck and snout, the glob that he stretched and cut to make the mane--drew repeated oohs and aahs from dozens of his fellow students gathered in a half-circle around him.
As he carefully placed the completed glass horse in a cooling oven, the group applauded.
Leal is one of Santa Monica College's aspiring master glass blowers, a student lucky enough to have found a place in the only college- or university-level class in Los Angeles to offer glass blowing. The course is hailed by glass blowers as a training ground for young artists in the developing medium of glass as sculptural material.
For experienced local glass blowers, the class offers rare access to a "hot shop," a workshop made up of furnaces and ovens that are expensive to run. Unlike Seattle and the San Francisco Bay Area, both homes to thriving glass blowing communities, Los Angeles offers limited opportunities for glass blowers, with only a few private workshops and no glass art galleries to showcase work, according to local glass blowers.
"If you are trying to seek out glass, whether or not you want to be a glass blower and blow goblets or do some type of sculpture, Santa Monica is the only place," said Andy Berney, 35, a five-time glass class student.
At the helm of the class is Don Hartman, an art instructor who launched the program in 1982 and was one of the first students to study glass blowing at the university level in the early 1960s, at the University of Wisconsin. As glass blowing classes at USC, UCLA and Cal State Northridge were dropped in the 1980s because of expense, Hartman persevered to keep his class going.
When administrators objected to the high cost of running the workshop--gas for furnaces that are fired up to 2,000 degrees costs $1,000 a month--Hartman promised to cut expenses by using money from an annual student art sale. Each December, a glassworks sale raises about $12,000, with most of the money going back to the workshop.
He also won the backing of the college's former president, who touted the workshop as a campus highlight to visiting college administrators.
"Don offers students a chance to come to a community college and do this very, very special activity," said Mary White, an art professor at San Jose State, where two of Hartman's students are pursuing art degrees in glass.
Other graduates of Hartman's class have found success in the Bay Area's glass community, where one former student recently opened a studio that specializes in making glass products, such as sconces, for architects.
Glass blowing work produced in the class can range from plain goblets to elaborate sculptures. Unlike most machine-produced glass products sold in stores, the work in Santa Monica College's shop is freestyle, a method in which hot glass is shaped at the end of a pipe.
Guest glass artists frequently lecture and conduct in-class demonstrations, often of the newest techniques in glass sculpture.
Until the 1960s, glass blowing was considered a craft, with most work done in a factory by laborers following a designer's instruction, Hartman said. Then, artist Harvey Littleton pioneered glass blowing as an art.
"He took it out of the factory and put it in the studios," said Hartman, who studied under Littleton for a master's degree in glass and ceramics at Wisconsin in 1965.
Hartman's class--offered only in the fall--fills up on the first day of registration. Students must often wait a year or two before there is an opening.
Student fascination with the art form often comes from the challenge of working with a substance at high heat. Also, most can create an object after only a few attempts, Hartman said.
"Once you figure out how to work with gravity and how to keep the glass on the pipe, you can end up with some nice forms at the end of a very short time," said Hartman, whose own sculptures are made of cast and blown glass.
For Seija Gerdt, an experienced glass artist, the class is a chance to create while hanging out with fellow glass blowers.
"If you love glass blowing, you want to help others do it," Gerdt said. "And you want to develop a friendship and family with people who have the same addiction."
The holiday student art sale will take place from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. today at Santa Monica College's Art Gallery, 1900 Pico Blvd., Santa Monica.