Joe Skeeba may be one of the best-kept secrets of the Lawrence arts community. Essentially a self-taught carved glass artist, his works can be found in Great Britain, Italy, Saudi Arabia, Israel, Turkey, Germany, Canada, the Bahamas, Mexico and throughout the United States.
His works are in the private collections of actor Arnold Schwarzenegger, Saudi businessman Adnan Kashoggi and actor Robert Morse.
In Lawrence, Skeeba is best-known for the carved glass underwater scene of parent and child whales at the Lawrence Indoor Aquatic Center.
“It’s in five sections,” he said of the work, “and each panel weighs about 600 pounds.”
Skeeba developed his glass-carving skills during his off-hours while working the night shift for the railroad in St. Joseph, Mo. By the time he moved to Lawrence in 1989, he had developed a substantial client base, including Hilton, Marriott and Sheridan hotels, Ralston Purina Co. and HOK Interiors.
“There were only three or four people in the country doing this on a large scale, so I got a lot of work,” he said.
His projects have included a mixed-media work with a bronze sculpture of archeologist Kenan Erim and a carved-glass, lighted mural that was installed simultaneously in New York City and Istanbul and Aphrodisias, Turkey; a mural with illuminated carved-glass panels depicting the life of St. Francis of Assissi and the history of the Laverna Heights Order of the Sisters of Saint Francis; and “Halia,” a carved and etched mermaid designed for Bob Goen’s Lexus Invitational golf tournament and celebrity auction.
His works are carried in galleries in Providencetown, Mass., and Santa Monica, Calif.