Artist Tom Gottsleben, of Saugerties, known for his stone and glass sculpture and for the spiral house of stone he designed and built in Saugerties with his wife, Patricia Livingston, died unexpectedly at home on Tuesday evening, January 15, 2019. He was 68.
In addition to exhibiting his work in museums and galleries and selling to private collectors, Gottsleben transformed what had been a ravaged Saugerties stone quarry into a 35-acre landscape with a unique home based on sacred geometry, visionary and joyful sculpture sited throughout the property, and serpentine stone walls, gardens, and trails tying everything together.
Gottsleben had been a business management consultant and painter before coming to the property in 1982 but he discovered early on that the stone there had the potential to express essential truths he had been exploring since childhood when he was captivated by the teachings of the late Indian sage Ramana Maharshi.
The spiral informed much of Gottsleben’s work, both his sculptures and the home. From our DNA out to our galaxy, the spiral is not only a growth form but also a metaphor for the spiritual path, the artist often explained while describing his art. “All of your experience brings you back to a greater awareness of who you are; that’s the spiral,” Gottsleben said in a 2006 interview with Spirituality & Health magazine. “You start at the center and come back to it through this wonderful circumambulation of experience.” Gottsleben like to point out that the stone and crystal he worked with — one hard, dense and opaque; the other clear light, and transparent — represented the oneness of the universe.
At the same time poetic and mathematically precise, beautiful and intellectually complex, Gottsleben’s work reflected the quirky, unorthodox individual he was and appealed equally to children of all ages. He lived in a state of wonder that was contagious. A vegan for nearly 30 years, Gottsleben had a respect and compassion for all lifeforms, from the tiniest bugs and critters to a work crew who were more like family.
Just prior to his death, Gottsleben and his wife had completed a book titled The Spiral House: Revealing the Sacred in Everyday Life that will be released by the art book publisher Glitterati Editions in late March. He had also recently finished Rainbow Portal, a monumental work of 12 continuous rising and falling archways of stone and colored crystal glass that form a circle with a large crystal at its center. By day, the sculpture sparkles in the sunshine, casting colorful reflections and projections. At night, illuminated by artificial light, it is otherworldly.
Born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin on November 11, 1950 to the late Gloria Louise Blaisdell Gottsleben and the late Colonel Alvin Gottsleben, the artist was an Air Force brat who came of age in the 1960s. After meeting his wife in 1982, Gottsleben began commuting between his business consultancy work in New York City and the ranch house on the Saugerties property.
Gottsleben’s sculpture has been the subject of solo exhibitions at the Neuberger Museum of Art in Purchase, Art Omi International in Ghent, and The Museum at Bethel Woods in Bethel; and in group shows at the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx, and the annual Contemporary Sculpture at Chesterwood in Stockbridge, MA. His work is included in numerous private collections and is represented by the Elena Zang Gallery in Woodstock, where he regularly exhibited.
Friends recall that when Gottsleben was diagnosed with cancer nine years ago, a disease from which he was later cured, he told friends in a meditation circle, “I am not Tom Gottsleben. I am not this body. Be glad for me.”
In addition to his wife, Patricia Livingston, Gottsleben is survived by a sister, Gloria Gottsleben of Littleton, CO; cousins, nieces and nephews; and a wide circle of friends and colleagues that make up the Spiral House community. A memorial for family and close friends will be scheduled at the property in the spring. Gottsleben’s art can be viewed locally at the Elena Zang Gallery in Woodstock and on his website, tomgottsleben.com. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Catskill Animal Sanctuary in Saugerties (casanctuary.org), People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (peta.org), and the Ulster County SPCA (UCSPCA.org).
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