ALCHEMY | Contemporary studio glass
Penland School’s studio glass program was set in motion in 1965 by a fortuitous meeting between glass artist Harvey Littleton and Penland’s director Bill Brown. An intersection of science and art found a home at Penland thanks to some willing and inspired artists led by Littleton to build equipment and experiment with the concept of glass art made on a studio scale. During a turbulent year that included the Selma to Montgomery march, the Vietnam war, and the Watts riots, young artists at Penland were seeking new freedom with a new material.
With no instructions, no rules to follow or break, studio glass was a field wide open for discovery. In 1971, Penland hosted the first gathering of what would become the Glass Art Society—a highbrow name for a devil-may-care group of inventive and fearless glass artists. More than fifty years later, the influence of and lineage created by Penland’s glass program is remarkable. What has remained constant is the presence of innovators: makers who investigate, challenge, and cut new trails.
The word alchemy seems appropriate to capture the quality of glass that is deeply scientific and yet inexplicable to most. The twelve artists in this exhibition are each in their own way using a deep understanding of the material to take it in new directions—they are alchemists.
Penland Gallery Director
For detailed information about individual works in the exhibition please click on the artist’s name above.
For pricing and purchasing assistance please contact Penland Gallery Director, Kathryn Gremley at firstname.lastname@example.org
“I continue to be impressed by works that engage the materiality of glass. “Glassy thinkers” such as Nick Fruin ….use the chemistry of glass as a means to create and convey meaning. Fruin, a highly accomplished glassblower, spent much of 2017 developing a formula for a highly refractive lead glass that is compatible with standard soda-lime blowing glasses. He combines these glasses to create traditional Venetian canes whose patterns are visible only through the differing refractive indexes of the glass. It is subtle, intellectual work that combines hand, mind, and object.” ~ Susie Silbert, Curator of Modern and Contemporary Glass, The Corning Museum of Glass, NY. from her essay in New Glass Review 39.
“For me, expanding my vocabulary usually implies a development of technique. The fact that I’ve spent so much energy seeking technical solutions is not because I love frustration – it’s to accomplish my visions in what to my imagination is the simplest most direct, most knowing way. For me, technique is not cheap – it’s imperative.
Glass is a tough lover, fragile and unforgiving, demanding and costly, high maintenance. But glass has no imagination or hidden agenda. If you are attentive, learn its ways, are understanding in what you ask of it and treat it with care, its spirit emerges.” ~ Mark Peiser
“Alchemists were notorious for attempting to make synthetic gold, but their goals were far more ambitious: to transform and bend nature to the will of an industrious human imagination. For scientists, philosophers, and artists alike, alchemy seemed to hold the key to unlocking the secrets of creation. Alchemists’ efforts to discover the way the world is made have had an enduring impact on artistic practice and expression around the globe.” ~ Getty Museum
A special thank you to each of the artists for their support of the Penland Gallery, and to Katya and Doug Heller and Duane Reed for generously loaning works from their galleries for this exhibition.