Glass Menagerie

Art-glass collectors spend thousands of dollars for works created by major stars in the field. That said, the four artists represented in the Asheville Area Arts Council’s Quatro Vetro exhibition may not command those huge prices, but value can’t always be measured in cold hard cash.

Michael Hatch, noted for his tongue-in-cheek attitude, shows a variety of works, ranging from graceful, multicolored, three-pronged vases to in-your-face political pieces. In a series of purposefully rough bottles called “Shine Jugs,”  decorated with flames or with a skull and cross bones, Hatch playfully parodies the slick preciousness of much work done in the glass medium. His love of crows (the bird employed in folklore to represent the trickster) manifests in “Nest Box” (a crow lounges on a perch after stealing all kinds of small shiny objects) as well as a drawing on glass of two crows. It was created with liquefied enamels, fired to a temperature of 1,100 degrees and re-fired until the paint fused with the glass.

To say “Robert O’Sheeran paints on old windows” is perhaps to oversimplify this artist’s cleverly simplistic approach. Bucking kitsch, O’Sheeran’s four-pane repetition of steaming coffee cups are Wharol-esque. Food in multiples is a favorite subject, as seen in “Poppin’ Egos” and a single-pane rendering of strawberries raining down into a chocolate puddle. The triptych “Around the Campfire” features cascades of speared, browning marshmallows flanking tongues of flame. O’Sheeran applies his colorful paints with a rare confidence exemplifying his enjoyment of his subject matter. 

Sterling Crandall’s work is easily the most sophisticated in the exhibition. Some pieces are simple, weighty shapes in opaque glass, almost minimal. Others have metal fittings of various sorts that mysteriously squeeze or indent the shapes. Those fittings are functional, complete with pins and cotter keys. Several pieces have two jars of different colors and materials joined by a kind of hinge—perhaps a comment on how, different though we may be, we are all in this together. Most of Crandall’s colors are muted, adding another layer of subtlety to the works.

Rick Melby’s unique postmodern lamps prove he can make art out of anything. In Melby’s trademark wit, “Totem,” an oversized alphabet block, holds an enameled teapot. A pink plastic drinking cup used by the artist and his brother as small children forms the lighted top, which is crowned with a small plastic chicken (Why? Because, why not?).

While it may be unlikely you will ever see any of these works installed in a major museum—the value of the humor and fun they provide the viewer: priceless.

Connie Bostic is an Asheville based painter and writer.

Quatro Vetro Glass and Mixed Media is on display at the Asheville Arts Council‘s Front Gallery through Friday, May 30.

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