Someone You Should Know: Retired teacher turns to sculpture, donating most of his work

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Rich Solberg learned to weld when he was 12, thanks to his dad.

As he says, he’s been “putting metal together” ever since then…and has become quite the artist.

He said, “I used to think you had to be successful in selling art to call yourself an artist,” but he learned that’s not necessarily the truth.

He has had success in selling art, but over the years, it’s turned into more than money.

It’s a lot of work, but it’s a labor of love.

“My process, a lot of times, starts at 2 a.m.,” he said. “In the morning when other people are sleeping, my mind is working, it’s churning on the latest process, the latest thought. Sometimes I’ll build that piece many times in my mind and then sometime in the near future I would start to build that piece in actuality.”

A common theme within Solberg’s work is recycled metals.

All projects begin with browsing for the pieces he’s looking for or pieces that can be made into the right shape, which has led him to do a lot of forge work and acquire a big scrap pile.

Sometimes, he says, it’s like a puzzle. He’ll even build the tools he needs to be able to make that missing piece.

“Generally, I’ve got a lot more ideas than I have time to do them. And my best pieces are always the next one.”

The ideas and time spent aren’t always consecutive, either.

For example, this [see video above] piece.

Initially, it looks like a skeleton on a motorcycle. At first, it was the lone motorcycle.

Now, it’s actually “Time Machine, No Brakes.”

“The motorcycle represents the movement of time,” he explained. “Every second is going to come by and it’s going to leave. So the skeleton, probably represents somebody trying to control time.”

If you look closely, every aspect of a functioning motorcycle is represented except for the brakes.

Another one of his big projects stands at First Lutheran Church in Minot.

The 12′ sculpture includes more than 100 small crosses, all shaped by Solberg.

“It must strike a chord in people,” Solberg reflected. “Which then makes me feel good about it because they tell me every time they look at it, they see something different. I like that. As an artist, I think that’s pretty cool.”

That’s also why he chooses to donate a lot of his work.

The next piece will be up for auction at the Black Tie and Spurs Gala in Medora on Friday, June 25.

If you can’t attend that auction, you can bid virtually starting right now. Just click the link above.

And coming up on July 4, Solberg is hosting an art show in his hometown of Stanley.

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