Click on photos to enlarge.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Glass Sculpture

Glass art by Robert Kraft                          

Steuben Art Glass,
The Tower Exhibition, Eric Hilton
Growing up as a child in a rather "art deprived" area of southeastern Ohio, I tended to soak up even the most minor elements of art wherever I encountered them. One such venue was the Morgan County Fair. I stood for hours watching a traveling hack artist paint formula landscape scenes from memory. Another artist used a flaming torch and slender glass rods to create, delicate, free-standing, glass, table ornaments (usually animals of some kind) right before my eyes. The work of Wendy Williams (below) is quite similar to the "county fair" glass art I first encountered. Today it's sometimes called "flamework" art. Years later, when I began to do art shows myself, a friend of mine named Dale Moore used an abrasive wheel to cut designs into glassware. The Steuben Art Glass piece, The Tower Exhibition (left) by Eric Hilton, is an example of this technique. Dale's glass cutting wasn't what I'd term sculpture, and he was more artisan than artist, but until the last few years, they were about my only exposure to the fine art of creative glass design.

Swimmer, Wendy Williams
I think it may have been on a cruise ship that I first encountered the incredible creations in glass of the renown Dale Chihuly. Later, my wife and I spent several hours at his exquisite museum in Seattle located near the base of the Space Needle. Whether displayed inside, or outside in a garden setting among the plants and flowers his work so often emulates, the only word which comes to mind is spectacular. Chihuly, more than any other glass artist, has raised the medium to a level on a par with (or exceeding) every other traditional sculpture medium.

Copyright, Jim Lane
A sample of the Chihuly Museum in Seattle.
Just look for the tall thingie with the revolving restaurant on the top.
Honeybees Swarming a Floral Hive Cluster,
Paul J. Stankard
However, speaking of glass as an art medium, opens up a very wide scope of ways and means. Besides cut glass and flamework mentioned above, there's also blown glass, molded glass, shattered glass, stained glass, sliced glass, free-formed glass, and two or three more which defy simple description. They are the techniques so new even the artists find them difficult to categorize, while some are as old as glass itself. Archaeologists believe the Phoenicians first developed techniques for making glass. Probably some Phoenician beach bum built a very hot bonfire on a sandy shore only to be amazed at what he found once the embers cooled. The nearby Assyrians and the Egyptians picked up on the idea while the Greeks and Romans perfected many of glassmaking techniques we still see today in what's sometimes called art glass or studio glass (above, right). Some of these very old ways and means can still be observed on the Venetian Island of Murano, where I visited a couple years ago and watched one-of-a-kind pieces being made by hand the old fashioned way. The shop window below provides a glimpse of such items in the one-hundred to one-thousand euro range.

Copyright, Jim Lane
No, it's not an abstract painting, though some of the
individual pieces of Murano glass could be called that.
Seated Figure, Daniel Arsham,
shattered glass.
During the Medieval period, glass and art pretty much meant stained glass as used in church windows to help spread the Gospel visually to the mostly illiterate masses meeting for morning mass. Whether a blazing sunrise or a halogen glow, Glass has always been married to light, the brighter, the more intense, the more beautiful. Today stained glass is not limited to windows or a two-dimensional format. The work of Lyle London and Richard Altman, collaborating on their 15-inch Triple Helix-Completed (below) demonstrates the versatility of glass in its natural (that is to say, flat) state supported by a soldered or welded metal framework. The work below is a high-dichroic glass and polished stainless steel suspended sculpture at Renown Health Care, Tahoe Tower lobby, in Reno, Nevada. Daniel Arsham uses shattered glass as his sculpture medium as seen in his Seated Figure (left) in which each tiny shard is painstakingly melted into the figural mass. This one would appear to be made from shattered Coca-Cola bottles.

Triple Helix-Completed, Lyle London with Richard Altman.
It comes with its own variable lighting system.
The work of Lino Tagliapietra, one of the best (if not the best) glass artist in the world today, demonstrates that even the oldest art techniques, such a blown glass, coming from a master of the art, can result in amazing beauty either taken alone or when grouped as seen in his Installation below. A former Murano artist, Tagliapietra today has his own glass studio, his pieces costing in the range of...if you gotta ask, you can't afford them.

Installation, Lino Tagliapietra

Copyright, Jim Lane
One of the "pitfalls" of
collecting glass sculpture.
Falling under the relatively new category of glass sculpture known as "sliced glass," we see the work of Harvey Littleton with his Yellow Ruby Sliced Descending Form (bottom), from 1983, in which free-formed glass is sliced in various ways to create multi-unit sculptural arrangements. The French jewelry maker, Rene Lalique, working during the height of the Art Deco era, is most famous for his use of glass as a replacement for various metals in casting sculpture. His tabletop pieces, (similar to the one below, left) have long been collectors items despite the fact they were factory produced, each piece numbering in the hundreds. From one of the oldest methods of sculpting glass to one of the newest, we see the work of Peter Newsome and his Wind Song Glass (below, right), in what I'd call "layered glass." I have a small piece made in this manner intended to form a glass cactus (left). Unfortunately, after my wife accidentally knocked it off a shelf, it has lost some of its crystal charm.
Art Deco glass design by the
French jeweler Rene Lalique
Wind Song Glass, Peter Newsome
Yellow Ruby Sliced Descending Form, 1983, Harvey Littleton


  1. Hello Jim,
    Sorry this is not related to the post. I am in awe of you prolific output everyday of the year. How do you do it? Do you have a specific writing routine?

  2. Raj--

    Thanks for your comment and question. Sometimes I'M in awe of my output too :-). First of all I write each entry a week in advance. They're stored by BlogSpot and published automatically at 12:01 AM every morning. I'm retired so I treat each day's writing as a "job" starting as soon I've checked my e-mail and the news each day (the actual time varies a great deal). Usually I finish each post about three or four in the afternoon (it has been as late as ten or eleven at night though). Sometimes just selecting the topic takes an hour or more. Then collecting and editing the necessary Internet images takes another hour or two. Writing usually occupies about an hour, with details as to layout and editing occupying yet another hour or so. Sometimes amid all this, I doze off at the computer for another hour or so. I try to do that all in one sitting. but more often than not it's spread out over the entire day whenever there's not something more pressing on the table. In advance of vacations and holidays, I can do two items a day so as to get well ahead of schedule; and if Internet access is adequate, I sometimes do a little writing while away from home on my laptop. Needless to say I live by my computer. I have it hooked up to a projector creating a 100-inch wall image to avoid eyestrain. I know this is probably more than you wanted to know asked. :-)

  3. Thanks Jim, for the very helpful information. I will be starting a new blog soon, and that was one of the reasons I asked. Keep up the good work!! :)

    1. Good Luck Raj--

      I hope yours is better than mine. Yesterday the bulb in my projector blew up. Just ordered a new one...$199...OUCH! :-)

  4. Thanks Jim. I will be happy if I could produce even 1% of your quality and output. :)
    Sorry to hear about the projector :(

  5. Woww ..these are the perfect art and home decor items that will go with any type of house setting. Thanks for this lovely post.

  6. Awesome post!!! Thanks for sharing this with us..Really these are very beautiful art and home decor items.

  7. wahhhh its awesome ...thanks for sharing with us these sweet nice and beautiful Art And Home Decor...