Bryant Stanton had worked on large projects before—the domes at the Driskill Hotel, in Austin, and Vic and Anthony’s Steakhouse, in Houston, to name a few—but nothing of this magnitude. His latest? A 33-and-a-half-foot-tall and 32-inch-wide glass-and-iron sculpture of a DNA double helix. “It was just one of those jokes that in Texas everything has to be big,” says Stanton, who started Stanton Glass Studio, in Waco, thirty years ago. “When we finished this project, the enormity of the size of it was like, ‘Wow, this has to be the largest DNA in Texas.’”
The massive structure, which appears in the stairwell of the new science building at McLennan Community College, in Waco, hangs down three flights of stairs and was a gift from philanthropists James and Nell Hawkins, a testament to how science and art complement each other. The couple had worked with Stanton on a glass fixture in the building’s teaching lobby and wanted to collaborate with him again. Stanton says the idea to do a DNA sculpture simply popped into his head. But then he had to figure out how to execute it.
Just like a real strand of DNA, this double helix has 23 ladders. The structure arrived in fifty pieces of glass and metal that needed to be assembled. It was hoisted up in three parts, but the mechanism broke due to the incredible amount of weight—32,000 pounds hanging. A shorter lanyard was brought in from Austin, and the structure was hung after a seventeen-hour installation process. The hard work paid off. The piece is inspirational, which is the idea. “Science sometimes seems cold and stiff, but it’s not,” says Lisa Wilhelmi, the college’s community relations director. “It’s living, and these two sculptures show more of a living atmosphere.”
And for Stanton, life is all about living. His interest in glassworks blossomed at Texas Tech during one of his off-campus soul searches when he inevitably asked himself, “What do I want to do with the rest of my life?” and ran into an old hippie at a supermarket storefront who taught him to make a stained-glass butterfly. That same butterfly hangs in his office today. A native of Long Island, Stanton is passionate about his glasswork and hopes to design for the rest of his life. “You have to live life every day, and that’s what life is about,” he says. “I don’t want to think I’ll start living when I retire.” He has certainly been a motivator to his seven children. His son Jordan began working with glass when he was sixteen and helped his father build the DNA sculpture. “He’s been a strong figure in my life,” says Jordan. “He taught me all about the business and how to become successful.” Here’s hoping that his DNA structure will inspire others as well.
To see the glass DNA structure being assembled, go to vimeo.com/7286060.