Sculptor Peter Zelle has worked with glass, clay and steel for 30 years. Explaining the early inspiration for his work, he recalls the wisdom of one of his teachers who suggested, “Living is the greatest art of all, and out of that comes the art product.” At 15, he witnessed the example of a creative life by observing his father’s great uncle, the sculptor/painter Peter Krasnow in his home and studio, then in his 90’s and still making new works and living creatively. Zelle had just begun working with clay, and at that point, he chose the direction for his own life.
Zelle earned a BFA from the Rhode Island School of Design. An apprenticeship with noted sculptor Howard Ben Tre prepared him for establishing Zelle Glass Studio in Minneapolis in 1992. Zelle’s list of public and private installations is lengthy, as is his list of commissioned works and gallery exhibitions across the country.
My art is an exercise of my physical intuition and my passion for color and form. I think of my sculptures as compositions, a word that resonates for me musically as well as spatially. I bring together shapes, patterns, textures, and colors in order to orchestrate a dynamic and harmonious whole. Perhaps the most striking aspect of my pieces is the luminous color radiating through the smooth surfaces, but equally important is the relief on the reverse sides. In fact, this is the first element that I address in my process, carving the shapes and textures into clay. It is only after I establish these spatial relationships that I decide the arrangement of colors that will accentuate the form and bring the composition together.
I want viewers to be moved by the pieces. I want them to be drawn into the interplay of textures, and shapes, to feel the thickness of the glass, and to touch the polished edges of each piece. I hope these works create a sense of awe. I hope the viewer is transfixed by the colors and forms.
I want my work to create a sense of excitement—a flash of recognition and the wonder of discovery. With these cast forms of colored glass, I aim to provide viewers with a space for contemplation and a respite from the cacophony of the modern world.