John Kiley is a fourth generation Seattle native who attended The Pilchuck Glass School and the Penland School of Crafts in North Carolina. Throughout his career as a professional glass artist, which began in 1992 at the age of 19, Kiley has worked with the most renowned masters in the field and has become an established mentor in his own right.
After working as an assistant in the Benjamin Moore studio, John Kiley joined Dale Chihuly as a gaffer on the chandelier team of his Chihuly Over Venice project, he traveled to Finland, Ireland, Mexico and Italy. He spent four years as an assistant to Dante Marioni before becoming a principal team member with Lino Tagliapietra in 1994. In addition to blowing glass in Tagliapietra’s private Murano studio, Kiley has traveled all over the world with the maestro.
John Kiley has taught glassblowing at the National College of Art and Design in Ireland, the Bezalel Academy of Arts in Israel, the Pittsburgh Glass Center and the Pratt Fine Arts Center in Seattle. In 2009, he became the Glass Director of the Schack Center in Everett, WA, an 18,000 sq-ft art center that opened in 2011, for whom he managed the design, construction, and now operation of the glass department.
Works by Kiley are in many public and private collections, including, The Museum Of Glass, Tacoma, WA; The Shanghai Museum of Glass, Shanghai, China; Sir Elton John;the Seven Bridges Foundation;Emirates Airline and Fly Dubai Airlines.
John Kiley constructs his pieces in separate sections then focuses on how the sections fuse together and how the membranes that connect them can be passageways to enhanced visual experience. Between the sphere’s soft roundness and the cleavage’s hard edges, light revels in infinite motion. Sightlines open and close through lens-like holes and shift with the subtle movement of the viewer’s gaze. By deconstructing the form and externalizing its inner parts, Kiley challenges the traditional view of beauty as that which is pristine and complete. John Kiley not only questions which is more beautiful—the whole or its parts, the inside or the outside, negative or positive space, the light, the shadow, or the reflection—but posits that it is the interaction of all of these characteristics that results in the beautiful sum.
“When I was a child, our house underwent a remodel and the yard was messy, full of piles of soil and mud; in short, a boy’s paradise. A favorite pastime of the neighborhood kids was engaging in dirt-clot throwing wars on our backyard battleground.
One day, while preparing for a battle, I picked up a pile of ammunition and began to fashion it into what would be the perfect muddy weapon. Slowly and deliberately I formed it with my bare hands until the amorphous clot of mud began to take the form of a ball. I became obsessed, shaping for probably an hour, and eventually created a perfect sphere.
To me, this tennis ball sized object seemed much too perfect to sacrifice in battle, so I placed it in a small glass dish, and hid it inside the tool shed. There it lived, until one spring day when I decided that I would impress my fellow combatants. Upon revealing the sphere, not a single one of my comrades believed that it was merely dirt. They were all sure that it must be a ball coated with mud. I pondered the options: return my treasure to the shed, or break it open and impress my friends? At this moment, none of us knew what the outcome would be.
Looking at the broken pile of earth, splayed out on the sidewalk, I felt a sense of pride that I had created something so perfect, and a sense of loss that I ruined it. Gazing upon what was left, clearly a broken sphere, rounded edges still intact, with the rough inside sections casting shadows, questions arose: which is more beautiful; intact or sectioned, outside or inside, shapes or shadows? Why was I so drawn to this spherical form and now its broken remnants?
The glass sculptures that I make are an effort to re-create this experience. Openings allow the viewer to peer through the sculptures where distinct separate colored sections are fused together to become one. Through my work ask questions about precariousness and preciousness, while also recalling my own experiences of being in relationship. The fragility of glass allows a tension to exist between viewer, sculpture and sculptor, hopefully creating a sense of concern for objects that may be considered simultaneously strong yet precarious, beautiful yet breakable.” John Kiley