Masters of Their Medium

Dimensions 403 cm x 250 cm x 32 cm
Materials Kiln cast glass, carved glass, steel, and wood
Collection Steve and Marsha Funk, Palm Beach Gardens, FL

“Masters of their Medium” is a sculptural documentary about the past fifty years of the studio glass movement focusing on seven artists who have made a profound impact. These artists, a mixture of Europeans and Americans, were selected after much discussion; they represent both an artistic, technical and historical significance to both Steve and Marsha Funk and me. I chose this cinematic metaphor to convey the continuum and interrelationship between their careers.

The artists chosen from left to right are, Harvey Littleton, Dominick Labino, Dale Chihuly, William Morris, Bertil Vallien, Stanislav Libensky and Jaroslava Brychtova, and Lino Tagliapietra. Harvey and Dominick represent the founders of the American studio glass movement beginning with the Toledo Workshop that they organized in 1962. It was their furnace design and easy melting glass that made it possible for artists to begin working hot glass in their studios and not in the factories which had been the tradition up to that point. Dale following quickly on their heels through his talent and ingenuity and showmanship eventually made glass art famous. William Morris, the youngster of the group began working for Dale as a gaffer and went on to develop an amazing skillful and artistic approach to his work with a very strong narrative. His glass was not just about the material and its beauty, but it conveyed a storyline as well. Moving now to the Europeans, Bertil Vallien, since 1963 he has been a designer at the Afors Glass Factory in Sweden. This access allowed him to experiment on his own work using the traditional foundry technique of sand casting to bring glass full force into the world of sculpture. Stanislav Libensky and Jaroslava Brychtova a couple from the Czech Republic began their working relationship nine years before their marriage in 1963. Their working method was quite unique in that he would do a painting or drawing to start. She, being the sculptor would interpret the drawing in clay after which they would discuss any changes before the moulds were made and the pieces cast in glass. They brought the material away from the small object to create large-scale pieces that were a revelation to the Americans when first seen at the World’s fair in Montreal in 1967. Lino Tagliapietra began at twelve years old as an apprentice to Archemede Seguso in Murano and worked for more than 40 years in the traditional Venetian technique. It was his collaboration with Dale Chihuly that combined his method with that of the more adventurous Americans that gave him his own voice and since the 1990’s he has been the maestro.

The film frame format allowed me to represent each artist with a portrait, an interpretation of their work in wood and in several cases through text, sculptural or graphic image to further communicate their story. In the case of Dominick Labino, I used the glass gather to represent the easy melting 475 glass marbles he provided for the 1962 workshop. For Lino, I used a graphic motif to represent the Venetian style patterning in his pieces. For Bertil, the crucible for the ladling or pouring the glass into the sand molds. The Libensky’s were so symbiotic in their work approach that I uniquely made them part of the representation of their piece. For the philosophers, Harvey and Dale I used quotes that described their feelings and work approach. Finally, for Bill I used multiple pieces and inlay to convey the Native American theme captured in the work.