Learning he could succeed key for Brighton sculptor

Metal worker placed three pieces after competitons

Belen Ward
Posted 1/24/23

Yanny Channal was tired of being told he couldn't do it.

But now the self-taught artist and sculptor from Brighton is placing three of his sculptures around the metro area, claiming the  top …

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Learning he could succeed key for Brighton sculptor

Metal worker placed three pieces after competitons


Yanny Channal was tired of being told he couldn't do it.

But now the self-taught artist and sculptor from Brighton is placing three of his sculptures around the metro area, claiming the  top spot in all three juried competitions.

"At the time, I didn't have the confidence to continue,  I let people tell me I couldn't do it. I allowed them to persuade and dictate my actions. I didn't believe in myself I could do it," Channal said.

A first-generation American and son of a Cambodian immigrant mother, Channal grew up in Los Angeles. He moved east to Philadelphia at 26, starting a new life. That's where he discovered that he could, indeed, do it. 

"It was my introduction to a lot of things when I moved to Philadelphia, my first job and my only job was at the Philadelphia Zoo. I was hired as an equipment operator, I also have carpentry a construction background too," Channal said.

A year after starting in a maintenance mechanic position at the zoo,  his supervisor asked him if he was interested in metalworking and welding.

"I have never done that or had no experience with welding (but) I jumped on it," he said. "It was something different and learning techniques on my own and becoming better over time. I became good enough to fabricate things for the facility. I welded fences, gates, and things like that."

He saved little pieces and metal scraps from each job, storing them in a bucket that was soon full.

"I was going to throw them away, but I thought I should make something out of these scraps," he said. "So I started welding the smaller scraps together creating cool little sculptures."

Channal also took on a part-time job at the Philadelphia Butterfly Pavilion, building bug metal frames for the students.

"The students would dress up the frames with recycled material. They also offered free space for me to work at the butterfly museum. The first thing I made was a bug," Channal said.

Channal said he was getting inspired and started welding a sculpture on his own time, something bigger than hand-sized. That's when people began downplaying his ambitions,  so from 2015 to 2017, his personal project sat in his garage gathering dust.

But something changed in 2017. Channal was a  good fabricator and metal worker for the zoo, so he started his personal project again and finished it – a metal stork.

"I spoke to the people at the zoo about my stork sculpture, showed them and I sold it to the zoo permanently. They also had a global conservation gala at the zoo, they displayed it there. People were telling me that I should continue my art of sculpture," Channal said.

Channal said an events coordinator at the zoo recognized that his was unique and good. and encouraged him to keep honing his skills.

"So from that day on – it was September 28, 2017 – I decided I'm going to become an artist," Channal said.

From big city to Brighton

Channal stayed in  Philadelphia for  11 years, moving his family to Brighton in July 2020 – right at the height of COVID. It was a difficult time for many, but his wife had family in Colorado and wanted to move to the state.  And he was impressed with the state's reputation.

"Colorado is ranked highest in the United States for art opportunities. We pulled the trigger and moved out here to Colorado," Channal said.

They visited Denver and then came north to Brighton.

"I thought this is different," he said. "I lived in major cities such as Los Angeles and Philadelphia my whole life. Coming here, it's not a city. But my wife also liked Brighton too."

Channal started to get involved with the art scene in Colorado and then joined CaFE, a website that helps artists find clients and sell their work.  After numerous applications, he received opportunities to install three temporary public art metal sculptures in Northglenn, Lafayette and Aurora.

"They were all juried competitions and I received first place in all three," Channal said.

Channal makes all of his sculptures with found scrap metal from a junkyard, kitchen tools, bathroom, and anything made of metal, and he loves sculpting animals. 

For Northglenn's 2022 Art on Parade Program, he offered his "The America Steel Eagle." The Eagle is at E.B. Rains Jr. Memorial Park, 11800 Community Center Drive, across from the Northglenn Recreation Center and Parsons Theatre. It will be on view at the park until May 2023.

Channal said the Eagle started early on as a hobby, and he had not put much depth into it at first.

"I found a key being thrown away that plumbers use to turn drains on and off to use on the bird. I wanted to create something big and meaningful, the American Eagle," Channal said.

It was his second large-scale series sculpture. The wingspan represents freedom. 

"When working at the zoo, they had tons of nails that were obsolete because we didn't have the pneumatic tools to run them anymore. I used the nails for the feathers."

For the Boulder Public Art Program in Lafayette, he offered his butterfly titled "Metamorphosis." The butterfly is at 105 S. Public Road in Lafayette.

 Channal had been focusing on animal sculptures since working at the zoo, and the Butterfly seemed like a good step. He researched information at Westminster's Butterfly Pavilion.

Channal went back to his mother's roots for his piece that went to Aurora Art 2C on Havana Street. His sculpture of an Ox is titled "Kou-Prey," a short-haired ox with long horns found in the forests in parts of Cambodia, Thailand, Laos, and Vietnam.

The Ox is in front of the country-western Stampede Club at 2430 S Havana St, Aurora.

Channal said wanted to create something big, like a dinosaur, but did have enough scrap metal. But he did have enough for the wild Ox that is native to his Cambodian heritage and the culture of South East Asia.

"It's a forest-dwelling bovine species that was only found in Southeast Asia. In 1980 and 81 the king of Cambodia's Norodom Sihanouk declared the wild ox as the national animal of Cambodia. It's why I decided to sculpt an Ox," Channal said

In his studio, Channal working on a grizzly bear,a  big horn sheep, and the Colorado wolf. He works at Lowes part-time to earn extra money and get out of the studio.

"When working long studio hours, it is nice to get out and socialize at Lowes," he said. "When I moved to Brighton, I found that sense of community," Channal said.

To see more of Channal's work, visit: https://steelnpacific.godaddysites.com/

brighton, self taught, metal, artist, Yanney Channal


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