Phantom Sculptor Explores a New Trail:
Park City’s William Kranstover Transitions from Mystery Artist to Respected Sculptor

In the early 1990s, abstract sculpture started cropping up on trails throughout Park City. The unusual metal pieces were the work of the “Phantom Sculptor,” who, under the cloak of darkness, erected unsolicited public art wherever he found the inspiration. Often several feet high and composed of found objects, the works appeared on the rail trail and along highway 224, mystifying and delighting hikers, walkers and bikers as they stumbled across them. The phantom was motivated by a need to protest proposed regulation of public art as well as a desire to simply create. While he and his cronies remained a mystery for years, the true identity of the ringleader turned out to be long-time local artist, William Kranstover (a.k.a. Kranny).

“At the time, city council was trying to pass a proposal that you couldn’t put up any public art without the approval of the historic district commission, city council and the planning commission - 26 people - and I just though that was ludicrous,” he said. Although Kranny proved his metal, so to speak, by assuming this rebellious role, he is an unassuming man and a respected artist. His “phantom sculpture” was not just a way to protest regulation, but also a remarkable way for the artist to explore a series of work with a “street feel.” “I wasn’t concerned with money. I didn’t care. I just wanted to create,” he recalled.

Art is not a job for Kranny. It’s a passion. “[Oscar Wilde] said, ‘Fine art is useless,’ which I thought was really interesting,” he said. His sculpture, painting and assemblage feed his creative appetite while his day job in real estate pays the bills. “If my [art] projects sell, wonderful. If they don’t that’s fine. But now it’s just for the love of the game,” he explained.

The 2002 Winter Olympics presented a unique and challenging artistic opportunity for Kranny. General Motors commissioned a giant torch sculpture, the “Light the Fire” Legacy Project, in the midst of Old Town (adjacent to the Kimball Art Center). “It was terrifying absolutely terrifying. You had to nail it. It couldn’t just be okay,” he recalled. GM liked the sculpture so much that they commissioned mini replicas of the flame, which were then presented by filmmaker Bud Greenspan to 11 of the greatest Olympians in the 20th Century, ranging from Bonnie Blair to France’s Jean Claude Killy.

Kranny is humble about his accomplishments, but enthusiastic about exploring new aspects of his art. Currently, he is working on two entirely different projects. One, named “The Dog Of Discovery,” (commissioned by the Idaho Humane Society in celebration of the 200th anniversary of Lewis and Clark’s expedition) is a state monument featuring a life-sized realistic sculpture of Meriwether Lewis’ Newfoundland. His second project involves a new process of casting in resin. His angel series, 15 figures representing different women complete with fiberglass wings, involves casting, hanging the pieces off the wall (eight inches away) and lighting them, so that the resin is illuminated just right. The “Angel Series” makes its debut at The Iron Horse Gallery, located at 1205 Iron Horse Drive.

“I like the abstract because it’s just so free and it encompasses a lot of happy accidents,” he explained. Kranny has always been an artist, beginning with painting and then collage, which led to assemblage and fabrication. His degree in fine art from the University of Wisconsin enabled him to venture to New South Whales, Australia as an art teacher in the 1960s. Thirty-three years ago, Kranny discovered Park City and found a day job that could support his passion. He continues to teach and volunteer, but his focus is creating.

Kranny finds his inspiration during hikes in the mountains as well as through his dreams. While he tends to produce art in series, his work never becomes stagnant. “I paint a lot because it’s a nice vacation from the sculpting and vice versa. It’s a vacation within a vacation,” he said. Aside from the 30-plus works scattered on public land throughout town and the exhibit at Iron Horse Gallery, Kranny’s art can be found at the Park City artists’ co-op as well as the Park City Transit Center (muse sculptures).

“It has been one of those passions. I knew I could always progress with it because it’s one of those things you can do until you’re dead,” Kranny said. As he enters what he calls the second half, he continues to explore and create, finding new media and testing new skills. The phantom, as it turns out, is a celebrated artist, whose spunk, sense of humor and talent not only reversed the direction of local art regulation, but landed him a commissioned piece with the city that now stands in front of the very building where city council meets every week.


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