Morgan's 'glassweekend' gives a taste of international symposium

Kurt Shaw
| Saturday, July 13, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

It was only a month ago that Amy Morgan of Morgan Contemporary Glass Gallery headed to “glassweekend '13” at WheatonArts, home of the Museum of American Glass, in Millville, N.J., to showcase the work of her gallery artists.

Held every other June since 1985, “glassweekend” is an international symposium and exhibition of contemporary glass that brings together the world's leading glass artists, collectors, galleries and museum curators for three days of exhibitions, lectures, hands-on glassmaking, artist demonstrations and social events.

This year, Morgan's gallery was one of 15 exhibiting galleries. And though the event is long over, you can still see Morgan's version of “glassweekend” at her Shadyside gallery, where she has organized an exhibit of works by seven of the artists whose works she displayed at “glassweekend '13.”

“All of this work was in my booth,” Morgan says. “I had two booths this year, and we also took a lot of jewelry. We do very well with both jewelry and sculpture.”

A consistent exhibitor at every one of the biennial events since 1997, Morgan says, “It's a very exciting experience, because people who identify themselves as glass collectors come from all over the country.”

As for Morgan's artists, they are from all over the world.

For example, Korean artist Mikyoung Jung is currently a Ph.D. candidate at the Sydney College of Art (University of Sydney), Australia. Her works on display here — which contain plasma-cut steel vignettes of town scenes placed inside cast-glass forms — were based on her travels.

“I have tried to encapsulate the most interesting and impressionable scenes from these places that I visited into my art practice,” Jung says. Her sculptures represent different places by framing them inside a capsule-like shape and refining images of the artist's emotions and memory of the spaces she temporarily occupied.

“Combining glass with metal, I attempt to evoke memories from the audience who might have visited these places,” Jung says.

Most interesting is the work of Chicago artist Matthew Day Perez, who is currently living and working in Canberra, Australia, thanks to a Fulbright grant he received in 2010.

Several wall-mounted pieces from his “Break and Mend” series are real attention grabbers, because they look — at first glance — like broken panes of glass.

In short, his work is about what glass does naturally and exquisitely — it breaks.

“For a great deal of my career, I worked towards keeping glass whole, in one piece — creating astounding feats of technical difficulty,” Perez says. “But in the end, I came to terms with the material.”

Known primarily for his spherical forms, Perez says many of his early works, which were castings, would crack.

“I would attempt a dozen or so and only birth about two or three,” he says. “I had actually attempted about six castings for ‘glassweekend' but none survived because of their co-mix form. They all either cracked or did not fill properly.”

The wall panels presented here represent a “reconciliation with material while still forwarding my interests and utilizing all the research I have done abroad,” Perez says.

Philadelphia-based Jon Goldberg's vessel forms on display in the rear of the gallery are unique for their textural variety.

“I am fascinated by glass,” he says. “No matter how long I've worked with the material, there seems to be endless potential for it to surprise me.”

And in similar fashion, the visitor will likely be surprised, too, by the seemingly endless combinations of color texture and form he has been able to conjure.

“Glass has many unique attributes. It can bend or reflect light. It can be transparent, translucent or opaque. It can both contain and inhabit three-dimensional space,” Goldberg says. “My work exaggerates these properties of glass using thick-walled, curved forms.”

Colored elements are incorporated at specific depths within the clear material to maximize the optical effects. Shadows and reflections between the layers of color and interior walls are planned, though surprising results are “frequent and welcome,” says the artist. These objects are uniquely glass, exploring those characteristics Goldberg finds so alluring.

Two new series by Susan Siver Brown of Phoenix are highlighted in the gallery. “Joyriders” and “Animal Whisperers” mystically remind us of our searching for bliss and oneness . The piece “Summoning Samadhi (Two Peas in a Pod)” suggests spiritual healing, she says.

“Through this type of visual and spiritual healing, we can encounter the deep joy that sends us sailing thru the cosmos and on our individual journey called life,” Brown writes.

Purely sculptural, the work of Robert Bender of Bloomsburg, Columbia County, and Rhoda Baer of Bethesda, Md., bring a sense of levity to the exhibit.

Bender, who illustrated children's picture books for almost 20 years, creates whimsical works in the form of figural cast-glass pieces that combine clunky human figures with casts of table legs, doll arms, faucets, bowls and cups, bottles and more. He says he likes “combining seemingly incompatible objects for the visual pun.”

Baer, who has spent 30 years working as a professional photographer, creates cool cast-glass abstract sculptures that are mostly translucent, but contain slivers of color.

“I believe my glass and photography have a lot in common,” she says, “and I enjoy bouncing back and forth between the two.

“Both are highly influenced by my modern minimalist perspective and rely heavily on my desire to create images and objects that communicate,” Baer says. “In both, the process is as important as the finished product.

Finally, the eggshell inspired works of Brooklyn-based sculptor Erica Rosenfeld and whimsical works of Montreal's Catherine Labonte complete the show, making for a well-rounded presentation that gives one a sense of what it might be like to attend an event like “glassweekend '13.”

Kurt Shaw is the art critic for Trib Total Media.

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