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Hot like glass

New Mexico’s Experimental Glass Workshop shows off its skill at Charleston Heights

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Duane Dahl’s “River Run”

Glass artists are hardcore, and they kind of have to be. The medium hinges on a fabrication process requiring studied attention to craft and detail. It’s also extremely labor intensive and more than a little dangerous. Manipulating molten glass at around 2000 degrees Fahrenheit literally requires serious muscle, not to mention ninja-like focus. It takes years of accumulated knowledge to expertly realize an idea in glass form.

Martin Horowitz's "12 Gold Pillows"

The New Mexico Experimental Glass Workshop in Santa Fe offers curious artists with little or no experience a facility to work in and fabricators to assist. Hot Glass: Art and Architectural Glass From Stacey Neff and the New Mexico Experimental Glass Workshop, at Charleston Heights Cultural Center Art Gallery, is a survey of work produced by artists in collaboration with the workshop.

Calendar

Hot Glass
Three stars
Through August 18.
Charleston Heights Arts Center, 800 S. Brush St., 229-4674.

One virtue of glass is the tension between liquid and solid. Most dynamic in its molten stage, the stabilized form usually retains some dramatic plasticity. Sculptor Martin Horowitz’s “12 Gold Pillows” manipulates this characteristic in gilded glass pillows with an effusive puffiness that draws a marked contrast to the rigidity of the material. The spare repetition of “Pillows” also plays nicely as a nod to industrial fabrication, referencing the lineage of glass manufacturing and minimalist mass production.

While painter Sam Scott contributes one of the more formulaic examples of glass art with the Venetian-looking “Piece Prayer Shield,” he also mesmerizes with the ominous “Forest for the Tress,” versions 1 and 2. The reliefs embed rock-like, kiln-cast azure glass in a white field. The glowing, soapy geologic shards function as topographic specimen and mysterious talisman.

Wildly removed from identifiable styles of glass sculpture is the work of Stacey Neff. The Workshop’s director clearly has a confidence with the material—so much so that glass, and the glass-blowing process, seems almost entirely absent from her forms. In loping, humorous sculpture with a self-consciously post-minimal look, blown glass is covered-suffocated, almost—in fiberglass, then painted in flat monochromes of stark white, canary yellow or bright green. Works like “One” or “Yellow 1” are striking in how un-glasslike they appear, as if made of plaster or Play-Doh.

Studio glass as a practice is relatively young, and there’s lots of room for experimentation. Given the opportunity to work with skilled fabricators, participating artists are not confined by a lack of training or intimate knowledge of the limitations of the medium. The work feels truly exploratory. Hot Glass winningly represents the spirit of the New Mexico Experimental Glass Workshop, whose exceptional fabrication supports creative experimentation.

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Danielle Kelly

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