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  • John Pahlas Valkyrie l by John Pahlas
  • John Pahlas Valkyrie l by John Pahlas

Valkyrie l by John Pahlas

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Steel Sculpture by John Pahlas

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All proceeds will be donated to Ukraine frontlines (45% artist, 45% Ukraine, 10% gallery)


Artist Statement: Conflict resolution. These words don’t usually find a meaningful place in the visual art world when explaining one’s artistic process, but throughout the last several years I’ve come to find that when I break down a day of sculpting in my studio, I see a list of conflicts that I’ve had to resolve through creative thinking, seat-of-the-pants engineering & utilizing the skills I’ve gathered throughout the 20 + years I’ve been working with steel. Life in general is a long list of conflicts combatted with some form of resolution. Many of these conflicts are within our control, but it feels like the past several years has spawned a myriad of global conflicts that the majority of us have little to no control over. As the compassion fatigue takes hold… as uncertainty fogs the mind and fuels one’s daily life, the creative energy we inherently produce cannot function properly and we lose sight of the beauty of the world around us… we gain a great vacancy in our minds when creativity is lost in the fog of fatigue and uncertainty. As the conflict in Ukraine reared its atrocious head in February, I immediately felt the compassion fatigue setting in harder than ever. But I was surprised to feel that fatigue lift however, when learning of all the creative and insanely courageous resolutions the Ukrainian people have put into action as a response to all the bombardments and blatant attempts to level an entire country. Inside this destruction and death is solidarity and the hunger to survive, a collective “David” fighting an autocratic “Goliath” for their culture and their national pride… it is not only a harrowing moment in history we are witnessing, but it is also one of the most raw examples of human creativity and collaboration fighting to resolve this herculean conflict. I tried to convey these feelings and thoughts within these three pieces. The Valkyrie figures depict two mythological entities preparing for flight to guide the souls of deceased warriors (represented by the river stones) to the afterlife. Compassion Fatigue captures a worn and weary human figure stuck in the balance between two cogs atop a labyrinthine tower riddled with vacant negative space and chaotic patterns. We all feel this fatigue in different ways. My hope with much of my figurative work is to allow each viewer to come to whatever conceptual conclusion their own emotions and experiences provide them… I want to guide you as a viewer to a conceptual door… but you get to open the door. As much as I like to believe it, I’d be gravely naive to think that art will end all war. History does show us, however, that art plays a foundational role in providing a universal language that digs into parts of our brains that spark up the flames of attention, get people thinking outside the foggy fatigue box and bring about resolutions to conflicts great and small. Through the acts of making art, investing in art, and celebrating art, we are providing safe areas in our communities that can ignite the creative energy in those that need it most so they can bring clarity and resolve to the wars going on in their heads and homes. Thank you for your time and I hope my work can help you lift some of that fatigue and uncertainty from your minds.

About the Artist:

 I was raised in family of artists that stretch back five generations. From professional painters/illustrators, musicians & blacksmiths on my mother’s side (the Armstrong clan) to jewelers, clock makers and authors on my father’s (the Pahlas clan) we have all dipped more than our toes into the creative stream and found our true callings therein. I grew up in my parent’s blacksmith studio in Ripon, Wisconsins. There is where I quickly became spellbound by the material and processes involved in metal fabrication and forge work. By the age of twelve I was under a welding helmet standing behind my father as he went about turning mundane chunks of steel into immaculate railings and table bases… it was like watching a wizard! At home, our dinner table was used more as a draft table by my mother. I remember seeing her sit down at the dinner draft table early Saturday morning with an empty sheet of paper and by lunch she’d be rolling up a gorgeous line drawing of the next beautiful project for my father to weld and hammer out in the studio. From a young cub to my teenage years I bared witness to the creative process on a daily basis. It is very safe to say that my fate of becoming a wedding addict and artist was drawn up from the beginning! To make a long story short, after high school I furthered my education at UW Oshkosh where I received a BFA with an emphasis in sculpture. There I met the love of my life of whom I now run Center Ground Studios, a very successful custom steel sculpture and pottery studio out of Mount Horeb, Wisconsin. We specialize in working with clients from all walks of life who desire a steel sculpture that’s custom to their space, aesthetic tastes & budgets. My partner Heidi also does custom pottery along with teaching adult and kids wheel throwing & clay sculpting classes. Our goal from the start has been to create a safe and creative space where we can focus on producing dynamic quality works of art and invite members of the community in to take in that creative process that ignited the flame of attention in me all those years ago.

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