Jim Gleason is a musical instrument repairman by day, and a sculpture artist … anytime he feels inspired. Broken instruments, mouth pieces, or even portions of music stands that are beyond repair, are given new life as conductors, dragonflies, ducks, or flamingos.
Gleason’s sculptures, which are on display in the Mary G. Burr Gallery at the Cheraw Community Center through Oct. 30, offer tangible reverence to all musicians, composers and music lovers.
Gleason talks about his works almost as if they breathe air. He knows the origin of each piece, and usually has a story to accompany the idea behind the transformation. Some even have names rather than titles.
“The techniques used to create them are similar to those I have used for over 30 years repairing and customizing instruments for military band, public schools, museums and private collection,” said Gleason.
In many instances, he can tell you who actually owned the instrument, more than 50 years ago; or in what band, school, or orchestra the instrument belonged. He smiles as he talks about their “previous life.”
“I find myself giving them new life in a form that celebrates their previous existence, saving them from being discarded completely,” said Gleason.
One of the featured works in the gallery is now referred to as “Dizzy Gillespie.” When this piece started, Gleason said, he called it “Heart, Lungs and Jazz.” But as the piece “began to grow,” so did its inspiration. A portion of the sculpture is derived from a baritone saxophone. “It belonged to a police band from Chicago, probably in the 1940s,” said Gleason.
“The urge to create combines with a reverence for musical instruments, and the desire to preserve whatever life remains in the parts and pieces of an instrument,” Gleason said.
The works range in size from small ducks that would fit in your hand, to “conductors” that are nearly six feet tall. The prices range from a few hundred dollars to $5,000. And, according to Jane Madden, owner of The Art Trail Gallery in Florence, who has been marketing his work for the past year, “He’s sold more than any other artist in my gallery in four years time; 32 pieces so far.”
Gleason was invited by the Cheraw Arts Commission to share his work with the Cheraw Community during the South Carolina Jazz Festival. Gleason was honored with an opening reception Oct. 2, but will be in town again Saturday, Oct. 20, at the Old Market Hall. Although his exhibit will still be open in the Community Center gallery, Gleason will have more works to share downtown.
Gleason’s exhibit mirrors the spirit of the jazz festival, said Cheraw Arts Commission Executive Director Lindsay Bennett. “It is a perfect example of how this festival continues to grow every year. And some of the works are so whimsical and fun, everyone will enjoy them. My favorite is the giraffe.”
— Staff Writer Karen Kissiah can be reached by calling 843-537-5261, or by email at email@example.com.