August 2, 2008 in Voices

Paul Kuhlmann sculpts metal into life

Jennifer LaRue
Brian Plonka photo

Sculptures made by Paul Kuhlmann depict everyday life from people to flowers and everything in between.
(Full-size photo)(All photos)

Art quote of the week

“Art is an intersection of many human needs.”

Carl Andre (1953- ), minimalist sculptor


To visit Paul Kuhlmann’s home gallery you can contact him at 484-5163.

Paul Kuhlmann plays with fire, welding metals into whatever his imagination can muster. Using copper-coated rods or pieces of scrap metal from places like the old Davenport Hotel, Kuhlmann creates wall hangings, garden art, free-standing pieces and artwork that suspend from above.

“I have a makeshift library of pictures of things I’m interested in,” he said. “So, if someone wants a sculpture of say, a crocodile, I’ll probably have a photo of it that I could refer to.”

He has done about 2,000 sculptures in the past 25 years, most of them documented in a spiral notebook along with the places he has shown which include a six-year stint in a large window at the Davenport while it was under construction and regular showings at the Liberty Cafe in Auntie’s Bookstore and Spokane Art Supply. A large mural of his depicting trees and skiers is on a wall at the 49 Degrees North ski area.

A welder and machinist by trade, Kuhlmann, 52, began making art by twisting and bending small wires into sculptures, then he moved into larger metals. He welds in a detached garage at his North Side home where, under a lean-to, scraps of metal wait to be reformed. “Big Joe,” a larger-than-life wire sculpture of a bearded man leaning on a shovel, is also there along with a 6-foot-long fish and some garden characters. Large, realistic-looking metal sunflowers decorate the yard.

Inside his home is an extensive gallery that begins in a hallway. Wire sculptures hang on the walls. There is a metamorphosis piece that begins as a palm tree then flows into a heron in flight, then an eagle, a horse, and an Indian’s head with an elaborate feather.

On the walls of the stairway leading downstairs are more sculptures of portraits of people, landscapes and a smiling sun. In the basement is a large room where his pieces fill the walls, free-standing tabletop sculptures sit on a shelf that runs all around the room, and kinetic pieces hang from the ceiling including a pivoting globe that is 41 inches in diameter. “That one took me about 700 hours to build,” Kuhlmann said.

Kuhlmann has shown his creations in more than 100 exhibits from galleries to a booth set up in a parking lot. Recently he sold half a dozen garden sunflowers at University High School’s parking lot during a benefit for the school’s band.

Currently he is working on combining pieces for large private or commercial wall murals, similar to the one at 49 Degrees North but with different scenes. “I’m also working on some old cabins and barns,” he said, “They’re only an inch or two deep but they look three-dimensional. I also hope my globe finds a home one of these days.”

The Verve is a weekly feature celebrating the arts. If you know an artist, dancer, actor, musician, photographer, band or singer, contact correspondent Jennifer LaRue by e-mail

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