I’ve been taking my class in Corning, NY at The Corning Museum of Glass for about a week now and I gotta say, I’m very happy.
Firstly, the museum itself is fantastic. The collections of glass they have are just mind blowing and have shown me how interesting styles of glass working can be that I never took time to appreciate. The contemporary gallery is filled with all sorts of crazy work, but so far, things that have popped out to me were Ann Wolff (who’s piece I can’t find an image of, but here’s her site anyway) and the duo Stanislav Libenský and Jaroslava Brychtová. Stanislav Libenský and Jaroslava Brychtová are two Czech glass artists who work primarily in cast and cold worked of geometric abstraction. And it’s really effective. Everything has this polished glimmer among the rough, rough surface they leave from the casting process and… I dunno, they’re handle over shapes is just amazing. To understand what I mean, just look at the work. Haha also, did you know that Rauschenberg did some glass work? Apparently! I think he designed the piece in there, so I dunno if he made it, but it’s a very pop art piece. A cast glass tire. Just a tire.
The historical collection though. WOW. I won’t even try to explain all of what’s in there. It covers everything. I found a lot of the really early engraved Roman work very interesting specifically, because it was less practiced. There was a playful element to it. However, all the engraved work in the collection was pretty jaw dropping. You know when you learn something and some of the magic is taken away from the process? Not with engraving. You try it, realize it’s really fucking hard and then are even more amazed when people manage to engrave the entirety of Jesus on the cross in extreme detail, on the side of a god damn wine goblet! It’s extremely impressive. But everything in the viewing areas is impressive. I don’t know what to focus on, because they have so much that you could look into. Like a lot of glass artists, I’m very interested the Venetian glass story. A lot of the work in those cabinets really demonstrated how secret and cult Venetian glass blowing was. The work that came from Venice at the time was just offering something other’s didn’t. An intense amount of skill, creative forms, pattern work, dedication, and professionalism. Because, it was their profession and they kept it so secretive to protect their practice. But, then in the 19th C they had fallen out of fame and tried to get it back, by basically doing what the French and English were doing. So those are incredible, but at the same time, kinda lacking that initial spark. Aside from Venice, the birth of Steuben glass (which was covered in a gallery housed in the studio) was kinda cool. It all started with a designer pumping out about 1000 designs for glass wears and clawing and stumbling around until he had the means to get people to mass produce them. The thing that amazed me was the sheer quantity of the glass objects. It, quite obviously, was factory work. And I think they hide that fact really well, because you would think of any of these items as precious and unique and made for one person, if it wasn’t shown alongside 100-200 other items very similar to it. And I think that’s an interesting switch.
Needless to say, LOOKING at glass is really cool! But, it’s nothing in comparison to actually working with the stuff. And now I have successfully segwayed into the class work.
My class is the smallest of the three in session right now, but that is good. Because, my teachers are fantastic and I’m learning a hell of a lot about glass and just art, and I feel that they can show everyone a lot more when the class is small. Martin Rosol is just a master of coldworking. He’s teaching me new things like the laminating process, but also teaching me techniques I’ve learned loosely in ACAD, but teaching them to me 10 times better. He knows what to do in every situation and everything he says to do when cold working glass is right. Not to mention, he’s a nice guy. I’ve chatted with him over lunch a few times and he is just a nice person. Quite. Sometime seems a little tired of talk. But overall, humbly fits into the crowd. In his section of the class, I’m making a geometric abstraction of a building in Manhattan at sunset. It’s kinda a technical course with Martin, less conceptual. But, with Jiri! That’s the conceptual part of class. Jiri Harcuba (there are 2 or 3 Czech accents in his name I can’t type on the computer, but his name is pronounced Yerji Harsuba) is one of the warmest, kindest men I have ever met. This is his last year teaching at Corning, and rightfully so considering he is probably about 75 or 80 right now. Even at this age, he’s a little crazy, but he is just so nice. He’s amazing at engraving and is a master. He has the ability to do life like portraits and engraving of the kind that blew my mind in the museum. But after decades of doing that, to the point he was a factory worker more than an artist, he got so bored that he tossed he tech skills out the window. He loves spontaneous, unpracticed art work now. You could ask him for technical information in the engraving room, but it wouldn’t go far, because he will wax philosophical with you instead. And I’m more than happy with this, because what he has to say is very interesting. He did a small talk one evening when all the instructors in session right now did presentations of their work. Most people are like, “This is what I do! Thanks for listening!” But, Jiri, in his soft Czech accent, does a modest presentation not of his work, but what work he admires. Cave paintings, engraving and such. And an engraved piece done by a three year old. With so much conviction in his quiet voice, he says about that piece, “No matter what anyone says, this is a masterpiece.” And that’s the core of Jiri. He likes everything everyone does, but not to be nice, or not because he doesn’t know what he should like. I think it’s because he truly thinks everything is beautiful. As well, on a tour, someone said that the museum did an exhibition of Jiri’s work once and it only had three pieces. He refused to put in more, as that quiet modesty is part of his zen philosophy. But he has more. WAY MORE. His design is on a coin in Czech currency, so there’s a lot more. Haha I think the reason Martin and Jiri are so good at what they do though, relates to something Jiri told me. Harvey Littleton (considered the founder of the American studio glass movement) wondered, in the 70s, why the Czech glass workers were so good at their crafts. What he found is that most of these big name Czech artists did the same thing over and over for years. You could say that about any artist with a consistent practice, but it’s not the same. The Czech artists, when they chose what they wanted to do, only did that. Nothing else. The lived, breathed, and ate their profession. And Martin and Jiri did this. Both started working in glass factories full time in their late teens-early twenties and only did that and nothing else for years. However! I could gush about how awesome my instructors are for a lot longer, but I won’t. In Jiri’s section of the class, I’m doing a series of simple gestural engraved plates of fire escapes. As well as some portraits.
My class isn’t the only class right now though. They all seem to be doing well and the instructors are all top notch. It seems like this session kinda has an all star line up. My class has one of the world’s most revered engravers, the blowing class has one of the last living classically trained master Murano glass blowers (glass blowing cult style training), and the casting class has the world’s most well known and respected paté de verré artists.
Speaking of the Muranese glassblower. This guy is nuts. Gionni Toso. He does primarily lampworking, but was a master glass blower in Italy by age 19. So he’s got cred. Haha we went out to a little pub called Captain Morgans the night before class started, and it turned from 8 people getting to know eachother to listening to Gianni talk about everything for half an hour. It was really interesting. The guy has had a crazy life. He did all this glass stuff and also has a master’s in painting. But he’s been around a while. And he personally know Picasso and Peggy Guggenheim. He made designs in glass for them. And he’s very smart too. He’s Orthodox Jewish and well read in philosophy. So that was a plus to hearing him talk for a half hour. Sadly though, about 2 nights ago, he fell down some stairs because he didn’t have his glasses one and badly hurt one of his eyes and his shoulder. So he’s kinda trying to help teach class with the other guy who’s instructing the blowing class (Matt Urban), but it’s tough for him. It’s sad, you can tell he feels so bad that he can’t pass on these techniques. He’s the black sheep of the Toso family who decided to pass on the Italian glass tradition, so he feels bad that he can’t do that right now.
The Higuchi’s are the pate de verre (means “glass paste.” It’s a delicate, painterly form of glass casting) instructors. They are a very sweet Japanese couple who don’t speak too much English, so their teacher’s assistant is also their translator. They critted my work the other day (the museum offers critiques from people), and I chose them mostly because they’re work is ENTIRELY different than mine. Theirs is all about nature and is floral and pretty and nice. Mine… isn’t. Figured getting advice from people who work much differently than I do might offer a good perspective. They seem intrigued in the experimenting I was doing in vitreography and encouraged me to continue that. They said also that it needs something to draw the viewer in and keep them glued to your work. It needs a visual hook. The husband said that in the most Japanese zen way ever though. Haha he said, “Imagine you are looking through a field of green grass. You see a weed. And you go to pull it out, suddenly you realize more weeds around it and need to pull those out too.”
I also went to the library today. Lots of cool books n’ shit. Good info. I’d say more, but I’m tired. I want to sleep for class tomorrow. However! I’m having a wonderful time here. Just, it’s tiring, cause the work I’m doing is pretty extensive. So I’m gonna wish everyone a good night!
All the best,
Lower Manhattan, Brooklyn Bridge
People With Aids Plaza. I know HIV/AIDS awareness and equality was a big thing in a New York. Think this is a little blunt though?