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Distinctions in Glass

Distinctions in Glass | Bremers, Janecký, Shimomoto

 

Distinction can be defined both as a contrast between similar things, and an excellence that sets one thing apart from another. Two discrete meanings for the same word, yet both meanings apply easily to the glass work of the three artists—Peter Bremers, Harue Shimomoto, and Martin Janecký—featured in this exhibition. This gathering of three unique artists highlights the diversity of technique, form, and aesthetic which glass allows the maker. Bremers creates monumental cast glass sculptures—abstract, monochrome references to landscape and space. Shimomoto weaves glass threads into sculptural tapestries, employing clean lines to capture the essence of nature. Janecký is a modern-day Augustus Saint-Gaudens who sculpts molten glass into naturalistic, emotive busts and figures. Their commonality—a gift for manipulating this malleable material into astonishing works of art that elevate the viewer beyond the banal of the everyday.

Peter Bremers was an established light sculptor when he stumbled upon a glassblowing workshop in his native Netherlands, inspiring a journey of discovery in using glass to capture and bend light. The artist sculpts a model out of a dense foam block. By using the kiln cast method, the model is transformed into glass. He is well known for his awesome glass icebergs, inspired by a voyage to Antarctica in 2001, which bridge the psychic gap between humans and the natural world. He masterfully captures nature’s magnificence in flawless glass microcosms, bringing us intimately in tune with nature by kindling our sense of wonder and smallness around her majesty.

cast glass, 25 x 16 x 5.8"
cast glass, 25 x 8 x 8"
cast glass, 26 x 5.2 x 6"
cast glass, 17 x 14 x 6.2"
cast glass, 17 x 12.5 x 5.8"
cast glass, 19 x 25.8 x 3.2"
cast glass, 19.8 x 11.8 x 5.2
cast glass, 15 x 16.7 x 5.6"
cast glass,16.8 x 16.8 x 16.8"
cast glass, 25.8 x 14 x 6"
cast glass, 26 x 14 x 7.8"
cast glass, 16.8 x 19.9 x 13.2"
cast glass, 16 x 8 x 5"
cast glass, 12.8 x 18.6 x 5.8"
cast glass, 17.5 x 12 x 6"

 

 

 

Bremers work in this exhibition turns the journey inward with metaphysical cogitations on space that offer a healing salve in a disconnected and anxious world. Bremers takes the interplay of positive and negative space—an element inherent in our physical experience of three-dimensional sculpture—and extends it in a metaphoric direction. He brings negative space into the sculpture in the form of holes and hollow sections; visible through an outer transparent shell of glass, their volume constantly shifts as the light flows through. These studies of space are monochromatic meditations on form and light—at times intricately faceted, gracefully arched, softly geometric, languidly amorphous. Eloquent descriptors such as Circumscribed, Honey Sweet, Illusional, Optical, Sensuous, and Connected title these “spaces,” signposts that encourage our understanding of Bremer’s artistic intention. Of this series, the artist has written, “Finding ourselves in a time of increasingly negative perception of everyday news events and an overall rising feeling of being unsafe in a world of religious, political, and social divisiveness, we may forget to focus on the possibilities and comfort offered by positive action and attitude. Positive space symbolizes tolerance, appreciation, hope, and opportunity.”

 

While Bremers articulates the grand physical phenomena of nature, artist Harue Shimomoto relishes in its small gestures and broad strokes. Diaphanous curtains of glass express abstract notions—weather shifting with the seasons, light morphing throughout the day, leaves changing their hue, air circling a pond, fields blowing in the wind. Simple colors and forms mingle in a complex but soothing mesh of layered glass rods. Illusionistic depth emerges as Shimomoto deftly wields positive and negative sculptural space and carefully handles light and shadow, distilling moments into shimmering immersive impressions. Like with Bremers, Shimomoto’s work goes beyond mere physical exploration, becoming a meditative journey that holds tightly to the impermanence of fragile moments and shifts the viewer’s gaze beyond the tangible.

fused glass, stainless steel wire, pigment, epoxy, metal hooks, 51 x 37 x 7"
(Sun Spring Light) fused glass, stainless steel wire, pigment, epoxy, metal hooks, 36 x 36 x 7"
fused glass, stainless steel wire, pigment, epoxy, silver leaf, metal hooks, 36 x 39.5 x 7"
(Freezing Night) Fused glass, stainless steel wire, pigment, epoxy, silver leaf, metal hooks, 36 x 36 x 7"

 

 

 

 

Shimomoto was born in Japan and received her BFA from Tokyo’s Musashino Art University, then came to the United States to get her MFA, settling afterwards in Rhode Island. Simplicity and ephemerality have a storied tradition in the Japanese aesthetic, a way of being that Shimomoto embodies, but also one from which she diverges. There is a quiet strength to her work—in its construction but more so it in its message—that makes her a unique amalgam. She has said: “I do not want the viewer to be too conscious of the glass. I almost believe that glass itself is too beautiful to be a medium. Many people see glass as functional object or decorative material. I want to break these images of glass and give it a different quality. Therefore, I am careful to make my work stronger than my medium.”

Sculpted glass 15.75 x 12 x 11.75"
alternate view approx. 27.5" h on stand
Sculpted glass 13 x 12.5 x 9.5"
alternate view
15.7 x 12 x 11.5" approx. 27.5" h on stand
alternate view
Sculpted glass 13 x 14 x 11.5"
alternate view

 

 

 

 

Martin Janecký is a master handler of the medium of glass, coaxing impossibly naturalistic figures and animals out of the material. Janecký was born to be a glassmaker, working in his father’s glass factory in the Czech Republic beginning at the age of 13. He likes to say “I didn’t pick glass, glass picked me.” After graduating from the glass school Nový Bor, he embarked on a path that has taken him to glass programs all over the world as a visiting artist and instructor to over 600 students a year. Teaching has been accompanied by endless learning, the time to formulate and hone his personal aesthetic, and the opportunity to push and perfect his innovative glass molding technique.

 

By “sculpting inside the bubble,” (blowing the basic bubble, then opening a hole and molding it with different tools from both the inside and the outside), Janecký achieves extraordinary realism and startling detail in his faces. Nooks, crevices, lines, and protuberances gradually emerge, a map of human emotion drawn in glass, radiating from within as is from a living, feeling soul. When asked about the meaning of his work, he has said: “I make things which fascinate me—not just from the workmanship point of view—I try to give them an expression. I don’t want to make just a realistic portrait. I want to capture feelings and emotions.” The external calm of the artist as he deliberately and slowly works the material belies his own creative mind—active, passionate, always seeking challenge.

 

A distinctive characteristic of glass as a medium is that it responds to challenge, yields to the vision of the passionate artist and skilled technician. A simple set of ingredients heated together to molten consistency, pushed, blown, poured, shaped, colored, etched, and altered in ways as myriad as the imagination can conjure. Peter Bremers, Harue Shimomoto, and Martin Janecký demonstrate the breadth of the physical and creative possibilities of glass because each brings deep devotion to the art, a unique ability to work with the material, and a drive to explore new experiences in glass.

LINO

 “Cosa vuol dire amare il vetro?” (What does it mean to love glass?)  For Lino, to love glass is also to love life.

STOCKBRIDGE, MA: Schantz Galleries proudly presents an exhibition of works by Maestro Lino Tagliapietra, whose spirit of adventure, risk and learning drives him to push the medium of glass and test the seemingly boundless limits of his skill. His intricate work in filigrana, murrini, reticello, zanfirico, incalmo, and aventurine prove him to be a master of glass techniques and a creator of transcendent art experiences.

Lino with Medusa, 2006,  at Schantz Galleries.

Glass is deeply ingrained in Lino Tagliapietra; his astonishing body of work both chronicles his life and transcend his personal journey. They are artful illuminations of the myriad elements that make all our lives so full. From the tangible—things like colors, places, and animals, to the intangible—ideas like balance, strength, fragility, passion, whimsy, and freedom. Lino has said that “an exhibition is a long process made of life experiences.… Every object represents something I would like to be, like a tree that has many roots. It is crucial to recognize Lino—the tree—in each object.” Like the roots of a tree, the works by Lino in this exhibition unfurl in many directions, all the while retaining the quintessential qualities of their creator.

Lino with Florencia, 2018.  Click to view additional works currently on exhibition.

Recent works include the Florencia series, symbolizing the energy and exuberance of the Florentine culture. Few artists possess Lino’s skill at translating the essence of a place into a piece of glass. Fiery flames lick up the sides of Etna. Africa’s organic color palette adorns a basket-like vase. Urban sprawl and a mountainous backdrop form the minimalist decoration of Tapiei, and the magnificent peak of Fuji emerges from rings of evocatively colored glass.

Lino brings this characteristic expressiveness to his interpretation of animals. The curved ellipse of the belly of the Oca (Goose) supports the bird’s trumpeting neck. The humble Chiocciola (Snail) adorns a delicately balanced ovoid of clear glass. Boisterous patterns cover the powerful Fenice works, whose necks pull into long and impossibly curved forms.

When Lino Tagliapietra thinks about the meaning of his work, he must invariable think about the meaning of his life. He asks himself: Cosa vuol dire amare il vetro? (What does it mean to love glass?) For Lino, to love glass is also to love life. It means to embrace the harmonious elements of life that are so uniquely reflected in glass. It means to communicate this reverence and spread joy through beautiful works of art.

Lino and Lina looking into Celtica, 2018.

 

View the catalog online!

Kelly O’Dell and Raven Skyriver Demo | Schantz Galleries June Weekend

Each year we feature artists to exhibit in Gallery One for the opening event of the summer in Stockbridge. This year, Paul Stankard, Kelly O’Dell, and Raven Skyriver were the featured artists and the gallery looks fantastic! These three artists are all deeply in tune with their environment and appreciate how glass can be a compelling medium for interpreting flora and fauna. Stankard’s floral paperweights are diminutive and detailed meditations on a flower’s elegant countenance—and the brimming underbelly beneath the soil. O’Dell’s sumptuous ammonites, coral, and fossil-like panels see the long view of nature—its far-reaching past, its captivating present, and its precarious future. Raven Skyriver also brings awareness to the fragility of the ecosystem through his glorious interpretations of marine icons of the Pacific Northwest, captured in an array of forms, colors, and textures as diverse as sea life itself.

Another aspect of the weekend is the Glass Demo which is held at a nearby hotshop in Canaan, NY, called hoogs and crawford. Nathan Hoogs and Elizabeth Crawford have been working in the area for over 20 years, and have a really nice shop.  

Following are photos of the demo, where Kelly and Raven created a Nautilus Cephalopod, an awesome sea creature, and an amazing feat in sculpting glass.  There was a rapt audience for over 4 hours as we watched the entire process from start to finish, supplied with breakfast and lunch, of course!  Assisting artists included Nathan Hoogs, Elizabeth Crawford, Bob Dane, Mike V, Jen Violette and Wren Skyriver.  The photos were taken by Amy Postlethwait, and videographer, Jeff Masotti will be sending us a video for our collection as well. 

Enjoy!
 

 

hoogs and crawford hot shop

Elizabeth Crawford

Nathan Hoogs

Mike

Jen Violette and Raven Skyriver

Raven Skyriver and Bob Dane

Kelly's special tool she invented to curl a nautilus!

Sculpting the tentacles or arms of the Cephalopod

Kelly O'Dell

Jen Violette

Kelly and Wren

High drama was featured here!!

Raven Skyriver | featured June 2-16 2018 | Nature in Glass | A Delicate Balance |

“Raven Skykriver’s glass sculptures immerse us in nature, allowing us to contemplate our mortality and encouraging us to change our way of being in the world.”

 

Raven Skyriver also brings awareness to the fragility of the ecosystem and the risk of endangerment in his breathtaking glass animals. Icons of the Pacific Northwest such as whales, tortoises, seals, and salmon feature prominently in his vocabulary, along with ancient shelled creatures and undulant octopuses. He expertly manipulates glass to express different textures—soft mat seal fur, rough patchy tortoise skin, glistening chromatophore’s cells, iridescent carapaces. Skyriver’s glorious creatures capture a panoply of forms and colors as diverse as marine life itself.

Raven Skyriver, Descent,2017, Off hand sculpted glass, 30 x 13 x 35″

Though Skyriver consults reference books and deliberately plans the shapes and coloration of each sculpture to achieve naturalistic accuracy, he also distills each creature to its essence and relishes the whimsical accidents of glass that can augment a piece. Skyriver suggests swimming bodies in their native marine habitat by giving the sculptures fluid movements reminiscent of real life—stretched necks and expansive flippers pushing through the water, arcing backs diving under the surface, waving tentacles riding the ripples.

Raven Skyriver, Adrift, 2017,  Off hand sculpted glass, 27 x 29 x 20″

The inherent viscosity of glass, its ability to morph in shape and color, and its seeming weightlessness as light filters through and around it, make it the ideal instrument for Skyriver. Though he originally did functional pieces in the traditional Venetian style, it is through working with glass that he has found his artistic voice. For him, there is great joy in making beautiful renditions of animals, bringing awareness to, and helping safeguard, the creatures with whom we share our planet. There is also great passion for both the medium of glass, an intriguing substance with many characteristics to learn and cultivate, and the process of glassmaking, a team effort that allows him to collaborate with creative talents.

Leviathan, 2018, Off hand sculpted glass 38 x 9 x 24″

Raven Skykriver’s glass sculptures immerse us in nature, allowing us to contemplate our mortality and encouraging us to change our way of being in the world. Humans cannot halt, but in fact will eventually be folded into, the inevitable circle of life. But humans do have a choice if they want to be forces of destruction or agents of preservation. 

Chinlook 2018 (detail), off hand sculpted glass. 30 x 8 x 19”

Kelly O’ Dell | featured June 2-16 2018 | Nature in Glass | A Delicate Balance |

“O’Dell’s glass pieces memorialize nature’s lost glories, endeavor to forestall future destruction, and contemplate the universal life cycle of life, death, and renewal.”

Veneration of nature defines glass artist Kelly O’Dell. O’Dell was raised in Hawaii, where the arts (her parents had a stained and furnace glass studio in their home) and the lush environment were woven into her upbringing. Kelly O’Dell sees nature in the long view—its far-reaching past, its captivating present, and its precarious future. Just as the phenomena of past millennia are written in the planet today, the actions of the present create ripples going forward. The Ammonite was a coiled cephalopod that became extinct 65 million years ago when a comet hit the earth near the Yucatan peninsula, altering the weather dramatically and making most life unsustainable. Exquisite shells were left behind, empty homes to animals no longer alive, embedding their intricate patterns in the earth. O’Dell mimics these fossilized impressions in panels, liquid glass melting like a massive glacier, suspending shell slices in perpetuity. Exposed anatomy is writ in delicately blown and sculptured turquoise, maroon, and golden glass, shapes juxtaposed with one another in elegant formations such as butterfly wings.

Kelly O’Dell, (R)evolutions: Chorus, 2017, Sculpted, cut, and cast glass, decal inclusions, gold leaf. Glass optic bricks rotate on stand, moveable by hand.

In other work, O’Dell revives the Ammonite in glorious dimensions. Glass is blown in varying thicknesses, carved to move light effortlessly through the helix-like form. With her sumptuous palette—at times opaque and creamy, at times delicately transparent, at times dusted with luster—the work blends realism with an aura of fantasy. O’Dell brings this amalgam of scientific accuracy and artistic license to endangered sea creatures of today such as coral, concerned that human impact on the natural world will mimic history’s astronomical disasters. The viewer’s eye dances around the craggy textures, milky colors, and clustered forms of her coral, compelling us to protect this threatened species. Themes of extinction and preservation invariably reflect back on the self and our own mortality; O’Dell’s glass pieces memorialize nature’s lost glories, endeavor to forestall future destruction, and contemplate the universal life cycle of life, death, and renewal.

Kelly O’Dell, Arora, 2017, blown, sculpted glass, carved by Ethan Stern, 10 x 7 x 10″

PAUL STANKARD | featured June 2-16 2018 | Nature in Glass | A Delicate Balance |

Elaborate and exquisite colors, patterns, and systems make nature a marvel of design. Abundance and majesty make it a source of inspiration and tranquility. Its continuum of birth, death, and renewal make it a symbol of life’s transience and mortality’s inevitability. Nature strikes a delicate balance between strength and fragility, sometimes stalwart against, sometimes victim to, the folly of humanity. Nature strikes a delicate balance between the seen and the unseen, sometimes displaying its glories proudly, sometimes teeming imperceptibly beneath the surface. Artists who take inspiration from nature inherently understand these qualities and act as stewards, honoring and preserving our planet.  

Paul Stankard, Emily Dickinson’s Garden Secrets, 2018, 3.5625 x 2.8125 x 2.8125″

“…metaphors for the sacred life cycle of creation and destruction”

Though Paul Stankard graduated from vocational school and worked various jobs in industrial glass early in his career, his creative side loved artistic things like poetry, and the wildflowers of his native rural Massachusetts. One of his favorite Walt Whitman quotes says that “the narrowest hinge of my hand puts the scorn on all machinery.” It is an apt description for someone who transitioned from mechanical work to fine art so successfully. He was drawn to the floral paperweights of 19th century France and present for the revival of this art in southern New Jersey in the mid-20th century. One of its finest practitioners, Francis Whittemore, happened to be Stankard’s factory supervisor. The two loved to talk about this common interest, though Whittemore shared few insights on his methods of production. So, Stankard applied the glassmaking techniques learned on the job to years of self-study in the art of paperweights to become a pioneer in the field of flameworking.

Paul Stankard, Cluster of Bulbous Forms: Flower, Bud, Honeybee and Figures, 4″ diameter (approximate)

Stankard’s process—using a torch with pincers, pliers, and other tools to precisely manipulate colorful, thin rods of glass—is about more than just making things. It is a spiritual exercise that brings the artist closer to the essence of nature. The monastic notion of laborare est orare (to labor is to pray) guides Stankard to see the miraculous in the ordinary. Diminutive and detailed meditations, his paperweights display not only a flower’s elegant countenance but the brimming underbelly beneath the soil, paying homage to what Stankard has termed “the mystery of unseen energy and the fecundity of nature.”

Paul Stankard, Cluster of Purple Pineland Pickerel Weed with Fruit, Honeybees and Walt Whitman Portrait Cane, 4″ Diameter (approximate)

Realism in his botanicals (carefully sculpted petals, pistils and stamens, and lovingly rendered insects) is coupled with mysticism and imagination (roots that morph into people and mosaic canes spelling words like “seed” or “wet” embedded in the design). The works are simultaneously referential to the idea of what a flower can be, and metaphors for the sacred life cycle of creation and destruction. Hot, viscous glass fills the crevices like dripping honey, crystallizing in the surrounding orb and creating a reverential memento mori in permanent suspension.

Detail with Walt Whitman Portrait Cane

SCHANTZ GALLERIES NOW REPRESENTING JAMES CARPENTER

STOCKBRIDGE, MA: Schantz Galleries is now representing commissioned architectural installations and gallery scale works by artist and designer James Carpenter. Carpenter brings over 40 years of experience and a rare synthesis of skills at the intersection of art, engineering, and the built environment. Through this partnership with Schantz Galleries, Carpenter will bring his design concepts (known for large-scale projects such as the exterior envelope and lobby of 7 World Trade Center Tower, the renewed campus of the Israel Museum, and the Gucci Asia Headquarters in Tokyo), to smaller scale residencies and spaces. In a private home, gallery, or small-scale public pavilion, Carpenter’s work allows for the play of light with the gathered image of the view out the windows, creating a unique awareness of the site’s surroundings. Carpenter says they offer a “playfulness and optical concentration of the view beyond. Essentially they offer a new way to read our world in an intimate and tactile way.”

James Carpenter, Immersive Field, Hand blown rondels and anodized aluminum, 37.625 x 37.625 x 6″

Carpenter has also noted that “designing buildings is not the normal terrain for a sculptor, but sculpture establishes a more human connection by engaging the phenomenological qualities of its environment. And here light is what I use, deploying my knowledge of materials to create a profound experience of place.” Carpenter believes that natural light and glass are the primary components of the built environment; transformation of the urban environment and public realm occurs as Carpenter carefully considers each site to exploit the performative aspects of light through glass. A dialogue is created between interior and exterior space, merging the beauty of the natural environment with the aesthetics of the structured world.

 

 

Born in Washington D.C. and raised in New England, Carpenter graduated with a degree in sculpture from Rhode Island School of Design in 1972. He was also a Loeb Fellow at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design. He planned to study architecture at RISD but discovered the sculpture studio and the work of glass artist Dale Chihuly, then a teacher there. Chihuly and Carpenter collaborated on a series of neon-light sculptures, and Carpenter also went on to teach at RISD. Carpenter continued making light-based installations while also serving as a consultant at Corning Glass, where he developed new glass materials including photo-responsive glasses and glass ceramics for architectural applications. In 1979, Carpenter established James Carpenter Design Associates (JCDA), as cross-disciplinary firm working on large-scale art, architecture, and engineering projects.

 

Image: Immersive Field, private collection.

This Rondel Screen incorporates hand blown rondels, each unique lens (detail below) encapsulated within an identical frame consisting of anodized aluminum and etched glass front clear glass back. This serial approach in a lenticular device can be arranged in response to its location, orchestrating variations of a singular exterior view. Three individual rondels, titled Immersive Field, are now on display at the Schantz Galleries.

The recently completed Glass Gallery for the Ford Museum in Dearborn, MI, where an old machine shop was renovated and an all glass entry vestibule of cast glass was added. We would love to think about smaller pavilions or gallery spaces for our collectors as well.

Contact the gallery for more information or to request a copy of the catalog.

 

 

 

Bertil Vallien at FORM Miami | December 6-10, 2017

“…knowing the exact moment at which to capture a shift of light or expression and wrench the secret from the glass is what it is all about.”

Bertil Vallien, Map IV, 2017, Cast glass, 20.27 x 16.53 x 3.14″

MIAMI, FL: From the Crystal Kingdom in Sweden to the FORM Miami Exhibition, comes this exhibition of Bertil Vallien’s signature sand-cast glass works reflecting the artist’s thoughtful exploration of the multi-faceted relationship of the human journey. Vallien will also be traveling to attend the show.

Bertil Vallien’s focus on looking inward is achieved in myriad ways, one of which is his unique glassmaking technique. A leader in the Swedish glass industry for more than 40 years, Vallien formulated his own method for casting glass in sand that creates depth and radiance in the material. Artworks are driven not by their final appearance—although their visual impact is stunning—but rather by their content. Vallien’s preparatory sketches are carefully considered blueprints of both the external form and the inner details. Layers—both physical and psychological—are created through a multistep process. Surface textures result from the imprint of objects placed on the walls of the mold, which are also dusted with powdered metal oxides to release color. As the molten glass is poured into the mold, Vallien incorporates a variety of objects from sheet metal and glass threads, to figures and other colored forms. Once the glass cools, the suspended animation reveals itself in full glory. Light reflects off the brilliant surfaces and assorted angles of the perimeter, but more dramatically it emanates from within.

Vallien has said that “knowing the exact moment at which to capture a shift of light or expression and wrench the secret from the glass is what it is all about.” Just as his technical approach unearths internal “secrets,” so his visual motifs are explorations of the subconscious. The artist is motivated by various things—from stories he hears on the news, to people he has met, to his religious upbringing and questions about faith, to wars both historical and contemporary. Despite these concrete inspirations, the work is not meant to pose facile questions with prescribed answers. Umberto Eco wrote “I have come to believe that the whole world is an enigma, a harmless enigma that is made terrible by our own mad attempt to interpret is as though it had an underlying truth.” Vallien’s art embraces this idea, transforming the events and experiences that inspire him into universal archetypes and symbols, upon which viewers layer their own perspectives. A shifting “truth” is created when two spirits—that of the artist and that of the viewer—coalesce. Through both physical expression and symbolic associations, Vallien senses the world from the inside out and opens this channel of experience to his viewer. Definitive answers become unnecessary, and an enlightened, empathetic, and open-minded ethos rises.

If You Go:
December 6-10,  Bertil Vallien, FORM
The artist will be present.

 

 

CHIHULY BASKETS: CELEBRATING FORTY YEARS

“Baskets was the first series that I did that really took advantage of the molten properties of the glassblowing process. Now, for the first time, I really felt I was breaking new ground with an ancient technique.”

 

For many celebrated artists, the path to creative achievement is gradual, studied, and often plagued by self-doubt. David Galenson, Professor of Economics at the University of Chicago and the author of Old Masters and Young Geniuses: The Two Life Cycles of Artistic Creativity (2007) calls these people “experimental innovators.” On the opposite end of this spectrum are what Galenson terms “conceptual innovators”—those whose brilliance arrives in a relative blaze, at a fairly early age, disrupting convention. Dale Chihuly is a conceptual innovator whose Baskets were a flashpoint for his originality. Forty years later, he is still a leader of the avant-garde and prodigious creative force, and the Baskets remain vital in the fascinating arc of his career.

Dale Chihuly, The Boathouse hotshop Seattle, 1993

Dale Chihuly had a meaningful encounter with traditional Northwest Indian basketry in 1977, during a visit to the Washington State History Museum in Tacoma. He was a young vanguard in the field of glass (he had become the head of the glass program at Rhode Island School of Design and co-founded the Pilchuck School of Glass in Washington by age 30). Chihuly was enthralled by how time had transformed the woven baskets into bowed and slumping objects. This touchpoint precipitated a breakthrough not only in Chihuly’s forms but also in his techniques for achieving them. He harnessed the interconnected powers of heat, gravity, centrifugal force, breath, and glass to achieve impossible thinness and dynamic asymmetry. Chihuly has stated: “Baskets was the first series that I did that really took advantage of the molten properties of the glassblowing process. Now, for the first time, I really felt I was breaking new ground with an ancient technique.”

His earliest Baskets, such as his 1979 Tabac Basket Set with Oxblood Jimmies, are daring and seemingly effortless. Like an alchemist Chihuly uncouples form from function and instead forges undulant containers of hue and luminosity. The muted palette reminiscent of Native American baskets defines the early work but is also an enduring muse. The extraordinary forms of Tabac Basket with Drawing Shards and Oxblood Body Wraps (2008) are like feats of Art Nouveau architecture writ in glass. This series is done in natural fiber tones akin to the objects that informed them, but the native formline design of the baskets is abstracted in Chihuly’s hand.

Tabac Basket Set with Oxblood Jimmies, 1979, 6 x 14 x 14″

These forty years of Baskets are not a linear progression, wherein one builds upon the next until superiority is achieved; rather they are collection of transcendent moments through time.

While some works have maintained an aesthetic affiliation with the baskets Chihuly saw in the 1970s, others are merely kindred spirits. Jasper Black Basket Set with Red Lip Wraps (2000) revels in the drama of the color black; opaque obsidian is complemented by deep blues and shimmering violets, sheathed in a sanguine red. Six nested containers produce a panoply of shapes and crevices where light is absorbed and refracted by the lustrous surfaces. With the recent Golden Sapphire Basket Set with Midnight Blue Lip Wraps (2017), Chihuly continues to push the limits of the material. The outer vessel is turned on its side—its form part basket part sea creature, variegated blues dancing around the cresting and plunging contours. Nested inside this frame, six unique forms coalesce in a masterpiece of blown glass, the splendid blues enhanced by peeks of golden yellow.

Jasper Black Basket Set with Red Lip Wraps, 2000, 6 x 13 x 13″

Entwined with the narrative of the Baskets are Chihuly’s drawings, in which we see the artist’s instinctive and spontaneous creativity most viscerally. In a medium not bound by gravity, design elements can be liberated from their surfaces, nested forms emancipated, circles need not close. Not studies for specific works, the gestural drawings express Chihuly’s big ideas to both his glassblowing team and his viewers. Then, as if the works on paper could shatter like glass into “shards,” details from the drawings become design elements of the Baskets themselves, exemplifying the creative loop that characterizes Dale Chihuly.

Pablo Picasso once said that “to search means nothing in painting. To find is the thing.” Such a prophetic statement could only usher from a true conceptual innovator, one who inspired a paradigmatic shift in art-making without seeming like it was any effort at all. Dale Chihuly has done the same for modern studio art glass, and the Baskets are the bellwether of this movement. Chihuly’s magic is intangible and unmistakable—a mix of technical genius, limitless imagination, fearlessness, experimentation, and an unfailing eye for the beautiful.

Jeanne Koles is an independent museum professional with a focus on cultural communications.

Golden Sapphire Basket Set with Midnight Blue Lip Wraps, 2017 (detail), 19 x 22 x 22″

 







If you do not see the work you are looking for within this grouping, please let us know and we will locate the right piece for your collection.

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