Route 28 being a busy thoroughfare – especially in the stretch between Kingston and Woodstock – a motorist with eyes on the road might be forgiven for not noticing that a new sculpture studio opened up some three years ago, tucked between the Tibetan Center and Fireside Warmth. A passenger glancing up at the top of the little bluff on the south side of 28 is more likely to spot the red-painted steel construction that currently advertises that artworks can be found here, both completed and in progress. But you still might not know that Wheelhouse 28 Metal Studio and Gallery welcomes visitors.
The 5,000-square-foot warehouse sharing the acreage at 881 Route 28 with Covert Excavating is a showcase for the works of Glen Mayo, a self-taught sculptor who works mainly in metal and often in large scale. Site-specific commissioned works, for outdoor or indoor display, are his specialty. “My goal in coming up here was to develop a clientele both of affluent private collectors and professional architectural and design firms,” Mayo explains.
A glance through his online portfolio shows what he means: the sleek space-age lines of custom stair railings, cheerful ribbons of painted metal towering against the façade of a bespoke modern residence, gravity-defying stacks of blocks poised in mid-tumble in an airport or on someone’s grassy back forty. But these aren’t just toys for millionaires; one of his recent figurative works, The Farmer, is destined to grace a CSA in Ulster Park.
A Queens native, Mayo chose to make his new home in the Catskills following a quarter-century of living in Florida. His official art education was studying film at the School of Visual Arts, during which time he supported himself doing construction and renovation work in Manhattan. That became his first career, teaching him how to collaborate with architects, artisans and interior designers to create gorgeous showplaces for corporate clients and well-heeled homeowners.
He found himself watching master plumbers with fascination as they shaped copper pipes with a propane torch; and after an attempt to relocate his contracting business to Florida in the 1990s didn’t hit immediate paydirt with the local market, he started playing with fire and metal himself. “I got an opportunity with a design firm, and started making accessories,” Mayo says. He still does some jewelrymaking – there’s a “Bling” link on his website – but soon found himself scaling up his art constructions and experimenting with different materials.
Mayo began to incorporate modern design principles into making custom furniture pieces, each one-of-a-kind but sometimes stylistically linked in a series. A line he calls Brasilia ingeniously melds architectural steel backs with seats made of thick chunks of tropical cocobolo heartwood, each sporting a small plug of bronze to stabilize a crack. The chairs look far too arty to be comfortable – until you try sitting on them and discover that the artist’s facility with balance extends to human ergonomics as well. There are occasional tables in the series as well.
Hotel lobbies in Florida became home to many of his creations, such as an ongoing series of airy spheres assembled from fragments of metal: plates, spikes, chains, trimmings from bars from some earlier project. They range from 30 inches to 12 feet in diameter, some with a rusty finish, some painted in bright enamels. Quest, an intriguing 34-inch sphere currently viewable at Wheelhouse 28, is classified as mixed media, incorporating metal cutouts, discarded rotary sawblades, pieces of business signs, gratings and other odds and ends.
While repurposing leftover or found objects definitely falls into Mayo’s oeuvre, it’s not his primary focus. His greatest enthusiasm these days is for highly tooled, painstakingly finished stainless steel sculptures such as Sami, a tribute to his father. The shiny surfaces of its skyward-piled arcs resemble automotive chrome. Comparing it to another nearby painted-steel construction that he likens to a Ford or a Chevy, he says, “This is the Mercedes or the Porsche. You’ve got to use fine material: Nothing is disguised. This has got to be pristine.” He likes working in bronze, as well, employing the unusual technique of fabricating geometric forms instead of casting figures from a traditional mold.
This appeal to contemporary architectural aesthetics may have arrived in our rural neck of the woods at precisely the right time to catch the wave of second-homeowners from New York City moving to Ulster County to escape from Covid. Mayo himself decided to return to his native state after his son graduated from high school. He cites the Northeasterner’s usual reasons for becoming disenchanted with Florida: congestion, constant heat, lack of cultural and seasonal and topographical diversity. “I love riding my motorcycle, and Florida is flat,” he says. “I’m thrilled that I’m up here. It’s part of my long-term life plan.”
In the coming months, Mayo intends to reorganize and spruce up the warehouse that serves as both his studio and his showroom, preparatory to an Open House intended to raise awareness of Wheelhouse 28 as a “world-class” art gallery. He’s working on finishing the floors and some interior walls, adding French doors that will separate the workspace in the front from the exhibition hall in the rear of the building. “My goal is to have it finished in early spring,” he says. As the weather warms, he’ll also be turning the western side of the exterior into a walkable sculpture garden.
Wheelhouse 28 Metal Studio & Gallery is open to the public from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday and Saturday and by appointment on Sundays and Mondays. Call (845) 802-4994 to make an appointment or talk to Mayo about a commission. He’s happy to make a site visit to get a sense of what a potential client has in mind. To view photos of his work or make an inquiry via e-mail, visit https://wheelhouse28.com.