We tend to think of creating art as a private endeavor. The mind flashes to the lone painter on a hill, taking in a breathtaking landscape, or to the mad genius in his quiet studio, splashing paint across a canvas.
But sculptor Roger Stoller’s process is anything but solitary. With the help of three assistants working at a tombstone factory in San Jose, he builds 20-foot stone and metal pieces destined for display in civic plazas and on the front of buildings. (Story continues below.)
Stoller works in the realm of public art—something that beautifies our every day but rarely crosses our minds. The Portola Valley-based artist had little understanding of the concept when he began exploring his new passion for sculpture after quitting his industrial design studio 17 years ago.
“I knew I wanted to do big things in front of buildings and I didn’t know why,” he said. “I just through a series of lucky breaks got a piece built.”
That sculpture, “Tetrahelix,” which is located at what is now the Google campus in Mountain View, opened doors for Stoller to launch a second career. He began entering public art competitions “all over the country, all the time,” he said.
Public art is usually commissioned by cities and is funded through a small tax on development projects. Stoller said he builds two or three new pieces per year. The latest, “Vibrant River,” was installed on the side of a sports arena in Evansville, Indiana, earlier this month.
Though he still considers the work his own, Stoller says collaborating with other artists and communities on his art makes him feel more engaged with the world.
“When the art becomes public, it really is a second life and a much broader and bigger life” for the piece, he said. “The life goes on beyond the artist at his easel image…into this thing that belongs to everyone.”