The Fort Wayne Museum of Art has done it again; the Summer of Glass is back this year with a whole new exhibits of first in the glass art world. This year's exhibition features a trio of three exhibits with varying styles and methods.
The first pays tribute to Dale Chihuly, one of the most well-known names in the glass world. One of the pioneers of the art of glassmaking in America, Chihuly has influenced generations of glass makers growing up in a country where Chihuly has become a household name. The exhibit features both works by Chihuly himself and as well as other internationally recognized glass artists who were influenced by the glass giant.
The Chihuly pieces are as grand as ever, with vibrant colors, overpowering shapes, and flowing lines. The exhibit also features some of the artists preliminary drawings. At first, the drawings seem a little lacking, but there is still something attractive and striking. Still, it is hard to see how the rather plain drawings translate into the staggering glass masterpieces.
In some of the pieces, the connection to Chihuly is clear but in others, the jump requires a bit more. Lino Tagilapietra's and Benjamin Moore's pieces resemble Chihuly pieces most closely. Moore's "Palla Set" caught my eye in particular. It features a set of two pieces of blown glass. The shapes are as different as night and day - one tall and narrow, the other short and shallow. A sharp black outline around each piece draws the eye first, and then viewers are drawn to the cool, soft blues fading into white in the rest of the bowls. At the center of each bowl is a marbled, blue sphere.
Moving through the exhibit it becomes less easy to see the connection to Chihuly as the forms and textures become even more exotic. Martin Blank's "Winged Victory" is an impending human form with chiseled muscles and a certain majesty. The body rises from a glass base with impressive wings. The piece, made from hot sculpted glass, incorporates a myriad of textures and presents a formidable likeness of the power of the human body.
My favorite piece in this exhibit was Steven Weinberg's "Untitled 780804." The cast and cut glass piece offers something a little different from every angle. At first glance, it seems a bit understated in the room full of bright colors and wacky textures, but upon closer examination, the craftsmanship of this piece stands out. At eye level, the piece features a set of stairs collapsing into a cone in one corner and under fire from what appears to be a sand storm. The clarity of the clear top half juxtaposed with the chaos of the swirling particles in the middle is really startling. The angles and levels in the piece are masterfully executed and it offers a unique view from each angle.
The second room in the exhibition is the 43rd Annual Studio Glass Invitational Award Winners. As always this exhibit features a number of different schools of design and mediums. The pieces range from quietly simple to political and interactive. Jeff Zimmer's "The Disconnect Between Action and Consequence (Drone III)" takes on modern warfare; Tim Tate's mixed media piece asks viewers to take a second look; while Winnie Teschmacher's "The Eye Inside" is a quiet yet appealing bowl of white.
The piece in this exhibit that took the cake for me was a feat of realism and craftsmanship. Chad Fanfara's "The Pillory" is really an amazing piece. This hot sculpted glass, bronze, and steel piece feels so real, I was waiting for one of the birds to move; featuring three dead birds hanging from their feet, Fanfara's piece perfectly captures each quality of the birds from their claws to their feathers, to the textures of their stomachs.
The final room in the exhibition displays Christina Bothwell's Spirit into matter collection. Bothwell says, "What lies beneath the surface fascinates me, and I try to capture the qualities of the ‘unseen' that express the sense of wonder I feel in my daily existence." Walking through the exhibit, one can see that Bothwell was experimenting and considering the unseen. There is a fairytale sort of quality to her figures, but her use of mixed media, interesting shapes, and layering add a sort of eerie and haunting element to her work.
With children, small animals, and babies as the main subjects for her work, Bothwell's pieces have a quality of innocence and vulnerability. The back wall of the exhibit is lined with different mounted deer heads made of glass. They feature pale colors, some painted sections, and some overlays of butterflies or dragonflies. The most eye-catching piece sits in the middle of the exhibit. Titled, "Me, You, and Everyone Else," the piece features three girls in a glass house. The largest of the girls sits on a wooden stool and has a subtle rose in her chest. Her eyes are downcast and haunting. The two smaller girls, clothed in purple, appear troubled. One girls stands staring through the glass as if trapped, and the other lies at the feet of the bigger girl, slightly sitting as if just woken by a loud noise. The juxtaposition of the calming colors and soft lines of the rose with the piercing faces makes this piece memorable and thought provoking.
This year's Summer of Glass is well worth a walk-through. With so much variety, there is guaranteed to be something for every taste. While at the museum, take a walk through the other exhibits for a walk through time and American history.
The Fort Wayne Museum of Art is located downtown on the Arts Campus at 311 E Main St. Hours: Sun 12pm-5pm; Tues-Sat 10am-6pm; Thurs 10am-8pm.