Fantasy, reality, and objectification that happens in between. These aspects are what move Sioux Falls artist Cameron Stalheim. Known for incredible sculpture works like the Merman and Minotaur featured in Art Maze I and II, Stalheim is looking forward to the debut of this latest piece, Persist, which will be installed in the 2018 SculptureWalk Sioux Falls on May 5. The life-size figure will be over eight feet high and will be cast in bronze. 605 chatted with Stalheim on what inspires pieces, his favorite go-to spots, and memorable moments from the art process.
I first became interested in art… as a child. My mother was an art teacher, and my father was a handyman, so I had a very creative childhood. I was always drawing or making little creatures out of clay. I excelled in art classes, so I knew early on that I would end up working in some kind of creative field.
You may have seen my work… at Art Maze I and II, where I did this merman and minotaur. I’ve also shown at Ipso Gallery, Exposure Gallery and Studios, and Coffea [Roasterie].
What really inspires me… is the blurred line between fantasy and reality. Our sense of self is informed not only by our tangible circumstances, but also by our constructed fantasies. My work tends to bring these two aspects of life together.
I would describe my work as… transformative. Not only do many of my materials physically transform from one material to another, but there is an emotional transformation that takes place as well. Much of my work is a reflection of my self discovery, so you can typically find some kind of shift between my use of macabre to lighter, more joyous movements.
When I created the mascot statue for my alma mater, the University of South Dakota… I had no idea how impactful it would be for my career. It really gave me an opportunity to say to the world, “Hey, look, I’m serious about this art stuff. Let me show you.” It was a real launching pad for me.
What I love when people see my pieces is… the wonderment in their eyes. I live for someone engaging with the work and trying to rectify something within him or herself. Whether it’s how the art is made, or what it means, or how it impacts them personally. I love it.
My ideas come from… every possible corner of existence. Lady Inspiration can strike at any given moment. I can be inspired by the weather, or the way a stranger smiles at you, or a childhood memory, or even a sandwich. Nothing is off limits.
Since school, I… was a recipient of a Launching Artist in Baltimore grant. I also had the opportunity to work in Aruba for the artist Osaira Muyale. I moved back to Sioux Falls when I received a commission to create a Christ sculpture for the Good Samaritan Society’s national campus. Recently, I was published as a featured artist in the book CAST: Art and Objects Made Using Humanity’s Most Transformational Process. I have since created my largest work yet for 2018 SculptureWalk Sioux Falls.
What I learned from traveling and coming back is… there is always a place for you. No matter where you go, what you strive to do, or how difficult times may get. The present moment is always a place of belonging.
A moment I’ll never forget with art is… when I did the silicone lifecast for my giant merman sculpture. The model ended up having to go pee, so I had to cut the silicone off his penis and help him aim into a bucket. It was more stressful than fun.
What I love about the art community is… how much the community is growing. Every year there seems to be more and more opportunities for artists.
What I would love to see in the art community is… a dedicated space for nationally and internationally recognized artists. We have some amazing regional artists showing in spaces, but I think Sioux Falls would benefit tremendously from the diversity of contemporary art happening elsewhere in the world.
For SculptureWalk, I’m looking forward to… showing to the general public. Gallery shows can be very limiting for diverse audiences. Showing work in a public venue such as SculptureWalk really creates an opportunity for creating new contacts, while also inspiring people that may not see your work otherwise.
My favorite place to grab a bite to eat in Sioux Falls is… Bread & Circus Sandwich Kitchen. The food is properly seasoned, and it’s a super fun atmosphere.
A favorite spot of mine in South Dakota is… Spirit Mound in Vermillion. It’s a great spot to get lost in your thoughts and become a part of the prairie.
One of my favorite pieces was… this minotaur I created for Art Maze II. It’s such a powerful creature that I represented as totally defeated and sad. It’s a character I want to continue playing with in the future.
A local artist who I’m loving right now is… Rick Johns. His compositions are so beautiful. I’d love to have his level of artistic sensitivity, but I’m just way too aggressive.
What I love about the state most is… how affordable it is to be an artist here. I’ve really been able to build a body of work while renting a studio and having an apartment.
What I really appreciate about the local community is… the earnest support everyone has for the arts. People may not always understand it, but that doesn’t stop them from supporting it.
When I’m not working on my art, you can find me… soaking in a bath. It’s my go-to place when I’m not sure what to do with myself. Which is often.
Something people might not realize about me is… how serious I am. Most people know me as a funny guy who fancies inappropriate humor. Obviously that’s a deflective shield so people don’t see what a monster I am.
Advice I have for aspiring artists is… to put yourself out there. You can’t sit around waiting for something to happen. Make yourself hungry for something and go after it. Create your own opportunities and follow through.
To see more of this year’s pieces, visit sculpturewalksiouxfalls.com. •
The sculpture Persist was cast in bronze at BronzeAge Art Casting, and the total start to finish was $15,000. Stalheim says he needs help raising funds to cover the cost, and anything is appreciated.
To donate, visit cameronsculpture.com.