'Material Matters' exhibit goes through 2 different art forms with 1 thing in common

Kurt Shaw
| Wednesday, May 22, 2013, 8:57 p.m.

Kiln-formed glass and ceramics have a lot in common. Both are created by transforming their malleable source materials into solid masses through the application of molten heat. And that heat comes from the same source, either a gas-fired or electric kiln.

Now, both art forms are forged together in the exhibit “Material Matters,” on display at Gallerie Chiz in Shadyside. Not literally, mind you. But with the work of two different artists, Jeffrey Moyer and Patricia Hollingsworth.

The primary medium in which Moyer works is kiln-formed, also called “fused” or “hot,” glass. The glass is initially worked “cold” and is then fired in an electric kiln specifically programmed to achieve the desired effect. At the highest temperature, the work attains a molten or semi-molten state, and all the components are permanently fused and integrated.

The work is then carefully annealed at different temperatures and hold times to relieve stresses and stabilize the piece. All of the constituent elements used in a piece must be of a compatible COE (coefficient of expansion), or the work will crack during the firing or annealing (cooling) process.

Moyer's vibrantly colored pieces, which are made to replicate the look of watercolor paintings, are the result of several working processes. These include laminating, flame-working, engraving, metal and metal-leaf inclusion, and the application of glass frits, powders and enamels.

“Glass paints are never used,” Moyer says, “because I do not regard this to be a true glass-making technique.”

“The process I use most frequently is the application of glass frits (essentially sand-like particles graded into different sizes) and powders onto a solid glass substrate.”

Moyer's main objective is to create a “painterly” quality in the work, for which glass frits and powders are ideally suited. To achieve this quality, the materials must be applied and controlled with considerable care and precision.

“I also often blend and layer frits and powders, as with ‘washes' in watercolor,” he says, pointing to the piece “Sacred Spring,” which is a nature scene in fused glass that looks every bit like a watercolor painting.

Moyer says blending the frits to get this kind of result is a painstaking and time-consuming process. A single panel of complex design (drawn and coded in detail before glass-working commences) can require in excess of 100 hours to execute.

“Glass frits and powders are inherently difficult to control,” Moyer say. “They tend to bounce, especially the larger particles, and they carry a slight electrical charge that makes them challenging to manipulate with precision.”

To develop and refine the work, Moyer uses various tools, including small paper cones, sifters and brushes. One must also take care to remove impurities and foreign matter that occasionally contaminate frits.

“Nearly all of the glass sheet, frits and powders I employ are also handmade and, therefore, often a bit quirky,” Moyer says. That's why, in pieces like “Giverny 2,” a textural quality can develop.

Although he occasionally makes functional pieces, most of Moyer's work is in the form of flat panels meant solely for display. Which explains why most of Moyer's pieces in this exhibit are mounted on steel stands, which are custom hand-crafted to Moyer's specifications by Rick Bartoletti of Carmichaels, Greene County.

Whereas Moyer's pieces are slick representations of imagery real or imagined, Hollingsworth's ceramics are well-defined forms that celebrate the act of making them. “I like to make things. And, I like to think about them. Making and thinking — that pretty much explains what I do,” Hollingsworth says.

To that end, several pieces are made to complement one another, such as the vase “Woman Tree,” which is displayed in front of Hollingsworth's mixed-media painting of the same vase title “Vessel in Cellular Pattern.”

“Vessel Form with 3 Blue Objects” and some smaller pieces also are complemented with mixed-media paintings hung nearby that represent the pieces.

“Drawing and painting for me are coming out of (my) sculptural work,” Hollingsworth says. “You can see some of my clay-sculpture forms appearing in some of the paintings, almost as portraits.”

Far from perfect, Hollingsworth says, “they aren't meant to be perfect.”

“Variations represent lived experience to me,” she says. “I like color and texture, and I use them often as contrasts — smooth/rough, plain/decorated, shiny/matte, bright/dull, etc.”

Kurt Shaw is the art critic for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at kshaw@tribweb.com.

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