Heartland of glass: Oklahoma City Museum of Art opens “Fusion” exhibit and Dallas Arboretum continues Chihuly show
A version of this story appears in Friday’s Weekend Look section of The Oklahoman.
Heartland of glass
As the studio art movement celebrates its 50th anniversary, the Southwest is the place to be with “Illuminations: Rediscovering the Art of Dale Chihuly” and “Fusion (A New Century of Glass)” at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art and a Chihuly exhibit at the Dallas Arboretum.
From the mirror you peered into this morning to the receptacle you sipped juice from to the stoplight on the corner, people encounter glass constantly in their daily lives.
“Even down to the glass that you see on smart phones, all of this is actually industrial glass,” said Jennifer Klos, associate curator at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art. tapping her own mobile device. “We will continue to be surrounded by glass in our everyday lives — but also in art. It only seems natural that artists would choose the medium.”
For people who are interested in glass art, the Southwest — and Oklahoma City in particular — is the place to be to explore the past, present and future of the multifaceted medium.
“2012 is a big year in the glass community: It’s the 50th anniversary of the studio glass movement,” said Alison Amick, the Oklahoma City Museum of Art’s curator of collections. “We sort of acknowledged the past and the future this year … and it does make it a very great year for glass at the museum.”
Celebrating its 10th anniversary in its downtown home in 2012, the museum kicked off the year with the reopening of its extensive collection of Dale Chihuly glass art, and the famed Seattle artist will visit the museum June 24 for an invitation-only lecture and a book signing for museum members.
Last month, the museum organized a bus tour of the new Chihuly exhibit at the Dallas Arboretum, and this week unveiled its special exhibition “Fusion (A New Century of Glass),” a selection of 47 works by 20 emerging and mid-career artists.
“Just thinking back about how the museum opened with a Chihuly glass exhibition and then wanting to do something to acknowledge glass for 10 years, we ended up taking a very different look than our Chihuly glass collection with ‘Fusion,’” Amick said. “It’s sort of the lineage of the evolution of glass as a medium.”
Chihuly past and present
The museum opened its Donald W. Reynolds Visual Arts Center in 2002 with “Dale Chihuly: An Inaugural Exhibition,” and it was so popular, the institution launched a campaign to buy all 18 installations and returned them to view in 2004. It is considered one of the most comprehensive collections in the world of the popular artist’s glass sculptures.
Since New Year’s Eve, thousands have toured the redesigned “Illuminations: Rediscovering the Art of Dale Chihuly.”
“The way you move through the exhibition is a totally different experience, so even though you may feel familiar with the pieces, you’ll see them differently, which means you have a new experience with the work,” Amick said of the Chihuly exhibit, which was completely reconfigured and reinstalled prior to its New Year’s reopening.
In May, the Dallas Arboretum premiered its new Chihuly exhibit, with large-scale sculptures installed in 15 locations throughout its 66 acres of manicured gardens, towering trees and serene water features. Besides its daytime hours, the arboretum is open some evenings for “Chihuly Nights,” when the sculptures are specially lit.
“I think everyone was really awestruck,” said Chandra Boyd, the Oklahoma City museum’s education curator, who hosted its Dallas bus tour. “We went on our tour right at dusk, and it just really was very stunning to see all the sculptures lit. … There were large crowds there that evening, but you still just felt this sense of peace and calm and beauty.”
Creating pieces that are uniquely beautiful remains Chihuly’s goal more than four decades into his career.
“I just try to make something that nobody’s seen before, and every installation’s different. But I try to always make it as fresh as I can and to make them as beautiful as I can,” Chihuly said last month at a press event in Dallas.
Undoubtedly, Chihuly, 70, has been instrumental in popularizing the medium among artists and the public. He co-founded the Pilchuck Glass School in 1971, and as he put it, “Seattle now has more glass blowers in that area than there are in Venice, Italy.”
Future and “Fusion”
“There’s an atmosphere that artists like Chihuly encouraged just in terms of what is possible with glass. Ideas about glass (art) and what it is have changed, particularly over the last 50 years,” Amick said. “They continue to evolve and grow in terms of what’s popular, how artists can use it and what they choose to do. It’s something that’s become a lot more accessible, and certainly Chihuly and his predecessors really had a role in terms of that mindset.”
“Certainly Chihuly wasn’t the only artist to even help popularize it,” she added. “But you cannot argue with his name recognition in the field of glass.”
As co-curators of “Fusion,” Amick and Klos wanted to explore the future of glass art, spotlighting the works of contemporary artists from across the United States and Europe.
“All the pieces have been created since 2000, so we really took the approach of showing new and dynamic ways in which artists are working with glass,” Klos said. “Some pieces are hand-blown and in different shapes, but for the most part, we are looking at very different ways glass is being used as a medium to really create these unique pieces that have strong narratives.”
“We were interested in how artists use glass to comment on contemporary culture and society and issues that are relevant to the time and place that we live in,” Amick added. “And the way that glass is used is very different throughout the exhibition.”
While Chihuly specializes in hand-blown glass sculptures, “Fusion” also includes cast glass, fused glass, lampwork glass and more. Walter Martin and Paloma Munoz’s snow globes and Judith Schaechter’s stained glass light boxes give different takes on traditional glass forms.
The cutting-edge pieces offer timely musings about technology, science, the environment, safety family dynamics and interpersonal relationships. For instance, “Fusion” marks the debut of Norfolk, Va.-based artist Charlotte Potter’s elaborate installation “Charlotte’s Web,” which incorporates 864 glass cameos she rendered from her Facebook friends’ profile pictures.
“They’re actually placed in a very specific taxonomy: “She’s actually placed them geographically and also symbolically as to how she knows all these people,” … so it ends up becoming this very personal approach and interpretation to how we’re living in society today,” Klos said.
“It is an interpretation of how in our own society today that Facebook is our modern-day prosthesis for communication. We now really rely on technology to feel this connection with other people.”
From the aesthetic sense, glass art has a wow factor since people are aware of how ordinary and fragile glass can be.
“People have great respect for the technical abilities that go into creating something of glass,” Amick said. “Anytime there’s sort of that question of ‘Oh my gosh, how did they do that?’ I think that tends to draw people.”
“Fusion (A New Century of Glass)”
When: Through Sept. 9.
“Illuminations: Rediscovering the Art of Dale Chihuly.”
Where: Oklahoma City Museum of Art, 415 Couch Drive.
Information: 236-3100 or www.okcmoa.com.
“Chihuly at the Dallas Arboretum”
When: Through Nov. 5.
Where: Dallas Arboretum, 8525 Garland Road, Dallas.