“I feel at home in the desert,” says Tucson-based sculptor Otto Rigan. Not surprisingly, for that very reason, Rigan’s dynamic creations retain an earthy quality; the balance of dense limestone and fluid glass is what elevates nature into art and allows each piece to look as if it is part of the Arizona terrain. Although trained as a figurative painter, Rigan’s passion for architecture and thorough knowledge of glass (he wrote a book on the subject) prepped him for the day in his thirties when it all came together. “I was swimming laps, and in one moment everything changed,” he says. “I began to see the guideline on the bottom of the pool as a stack of granite blocks: a tall, thin column with blue-green plaster. I thought, ‘What if it really was a column but with glass used instead of liquid?’” Today, Rigan has created hundreds of stand-alone pieces as well as numerous landscape designs and wall installations. “Stone can be realized in so many different ways,” he says. “Whether you’re in Yosemite or Manhattan, it’s timeless.”
LX: I got started...
OR: At 11 years old, I determined that I was an artist. At 15, I’d catch a 3:30 a.m. Greyhound for a four-hour trip to Oakland’s California College of the Arts to study figure drawing. This is all I ever wanted to do.
LX: Current project:
OR: A collaboration with young and upcoming architect Bobby Cheng to create a high-end storefront in Singapore. For the façade of the building, I shaped honey-colored mirror and cast-glass modules in various geometric patterns that are reminiscent of gems.
LX: Personal style:
OR: Since I am first-generation Austrian, I’m a precisionist by default; because I use light, I must be an optimist; and since I am enamored of indigenous cultural artifacts as well as midcentury and modern works, I must be an eclecticist.
LX: Dream dinner party guest:
OR: I’d give anything to have a one-on-one conversation with Albert Einstein. He was more than an abstract mind; he was a humanitarian.