Exhibition of glass sculpture at the WCU Fine Art Museum, June 14-Dec. 7

Alex Bernstein, Aqua Fin, cast and cut glass, fused steel, 21 x 21 x 2.75 inches, Photo by Steve Mann
Alex Bernstein, Aqua Fin, cast and cut glass, fused steel, 21 x 21 x 2.75 inches, Photo by Steve Mann

Press release from Western Carolina University:

The Western Carolina University Fine Art Museum at Bardo Arts Center is pleased to announce the opening of its newest exhibition Glass Catalyst: Littleton’s Legacy in Contemporary Sculpture on June 14, 2018. Celebrating the efforts of Harvey Littleton, one of the greatest proponents of using glass as an expressive medium, the exhibition explores the work of contemporary artists concentrating in glass and how they are building off the foundations laid by Littleton during the early years of the Studio Glass Movement. A key work in the exhibition will be a new acquisition to the Museum’s collection: a glass sculpture by Harvey Littleton entitled Terracotta Arc. This piece will be unveiled at a special opening reception on June 14, which would have been Harvey Littleton’s 96th birthday. Donated by the Littleton Family in honor of WCU Professor Emeritus Joan Falconer Byrd, this sculpture serves as a focal point in the exhibition and a reminder of how Littleton’s impact reverberates through the generations. Artists featured in the exhibition include Alex Bernstein, Carol Milne, Hayden Wilson, Matt Eskuche, Shane Fero, Robert Burch, Carmen Lozar, Carole Frève, Einar and Jamex de la Torre, Shayna Leib, and Dean Allison. Glass enthusiasts, sculptors, lovers of innovation, and even knitters will especially enjoy this display of works ranging from cast figures to blown glass to delicate lamp-worked forms.

The majority of the artists in the exhibition represent a younger generation of glass sculptors who did not directly work with or study under Littleton, yet each of them, like Littleton, works glass to its fullest potential by creatively expanding the medium. All of the artists represented in the exhibition take a conceptual approach to their work, ushering glass beyond the functional realm where its traditional roots lie. Carol Milne, for example, constructs intricate networks of knitted glass that symbolize social structures and speak to the power of solidarity, while Hayden Wilson’s Drones are giant “paper” airplanes fashioned in glass that evoke childhood memories of play and also look critically at episodes of violence in our culture.

Born to a physicist who worked at Corning Glass Works, Harvey Littleton encountered glass in a factory setting at an early age. Believing that glass had creative potential outside its applications in industry, Littleton set out to make it possible for artists to experiment with glass in their individual studios. He built a small-scale furnace and other equipment that could be used for blowing glass. This initial experimentation inspired Littleton to share his findings with others. In 1962, he led a watershed glass workshop at the Toledo Museum of Art that would eventually spark the creation of glass programs at universities, craft schools, and art centers throughout the world. He is often credited with making information about glass widely available. Coming out of an era when glass techniques and formulas were concentrated in Europe and largely kept secret, Littleton took a democratic, and arguably American, approach to his art form by sharing ideas and techniques freely amongst a community of interested artists. His efforts led to the elevation of glass as an art form and the creation of a viable market for artists working in glass.

The reception for Glass Catalyst will take place on June 14, 2018 from 5:00-7:00 PM at the WCU Fine Art Museum at Bardo Arts Center, 199 Centennial Drive, Cullowhee, NC. Regular museum hours are Tuesday through Friday, 10:00 AM – 4:00 PM and Thursdays until 7:00 PM. For information, call 828-227-ARTS or visit bardoartscenter.wcu.edu.

Glass Catalyst is being held as part of the Summer of Glass initiative, which is happening in conjunction with the Dale Chihuly exhibition at Biltmore Estate in Asheville. As part of the initiative, organizations throughout the Western North Carolina region will be holding exhibitions, tours, workshops, and events centered on glass.

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