Glass: utilitarian, sensuous and decorative. Glass can be blown, molded, melted, fused, cut, sanded, carved, slumped and polished. We can drink out of it, see through it, wear it — and we couldn’t live modern life without it.
Have contemporary glass artists/artisans pushed glass- making technological experimentation so far that their work is no longer “glass art?” This question is raised in the brilliant small exhibit, “Innovations in Glass,” at the Sandwich Glass Museum.
Wayne Strattman’s construction, a glass pillar with LED lights bolting through it, comes close to eliminating glass as the main component of his work. His glass cylinder is merely the container for the light-bolts. Strattman’s “Dream Engine” is the most extreme example of technology overpowering the sensuous qualities of glass-art.
“Unbroken Hands of the Vine” is another example. In a tour de force of glass making, the vivid fall color of Pinot noir and Savignon grape leaves are recreated in glass by Demetra Theofanous and Dean Bensen. Their realistic grape leaves hang on a wall to form a beautiful decorative pattern. But the “leaves” look so real and vegetative that they convey no sense of being made of “glass.” The subject “grape leaves” negates the media, “glass.”
Almost all the art glass in “Innovations in Glass,” selected by guest curator Mary K. Childs, pushes the craft’s boundaries away from decorative blown glass in the legacy tradition of Dale Chihuly. And this is a good thing! Let’s see what other glass explorers are doing with sand, soda ash and limestone! But when does wood, stone and LED overpower the inherent qualities of the glass itself?