(German, b.1957) is a contemporary sculptor born in West Germany, and best known for his representational works carved out of wood. While attending the Hochschule für Bildende Künste in Hamburg from 1976 until 1982, he studied closely with Ulrich Rückreim
(German, b.1938). Balkenhol’s totem-like sculptures, which are reminiscent of Folk Art and recall medieval carving techniques, expand the traditional role of the statue by featuring everyday people rather than celebrated historical figures. Balkenhol uses a variety of woods, including poplar and Douglas fir, and crafts his works out of single blocks of wood using hammers, power saws, and chisels. The sculptures, often representing men, women, and animals and featuring serene, expressionless faces, have been interpreted as an exploration of the relationship between the figures themselves and the spaces or locations they occupy. In the mid-1980s, Balkenhol began taking on commissions for outdoor works, and as part of a noteworthy display, he installed two of his sculptures on London’s River Thames by placing one on a buoy and another near Blackfriars Bridge. While some of Balkenhol’s early works were nudes, he began rendering them in plain clothing—most often white shirts and black pants or plain dresses—in order to avoid any unintended allegorical interpretations. His art has been exhibited at institutions around the world, including the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., the National Museum of Art in Osaka, Japan, and the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, among many others. Balkenhol currently lives and works in Karlsruhe, Germany, and Meisenthal, France.