Written as an artist statement for a group exhibition in 1983
The phenomenon of the American Glass Movement has had a major impact on many people, including: artists, teachers, students, public and private collectors, critics, gallery owners,and numerous other art appreciators. The movement has undergone a rapid evolution in the past twenty years, from the early awkward experiments by a few artists to the present overwhelming number of sophisticated young artists beginning careers in glass art. Dozens of large group invitational or competitive exhibitions have taken place during the past few years, and museums all over the world have begun to acquire contemporary glass for their permanent collections. A very strong collectors' market has been developed, and is motivating artists through financial support. The demands placed upon the artists by all of this enthusiasm have accelerated the development of ideas and innovative techniques for working with glass and have given some artists the freedom to devote all of their working time to their glass art. It should also be noted that the success of sales has caused some less imaginative artists to pursue a single idea because of its public response instead of continuing to grow intellectually as artists. However, the overall view of the glass movement shows such a vast and diverse group of artists and objects that evidence of meaningful, expressive work is easy to find.
Glassblowing provided the impetus for most artists at the beginning of the movement. The newness of the material for an individual artist removed from industry was a great surprise to many people. The liquid seductive qualities of glass and the excitement of the physical activity of making objects often dictated the form. In the context of contemporary art in America during the 1960's and 1970's, it was easy to focus on the phenomena of liquid glass and its properties rather than to demand that the material serve an expressive purpose for the artist. Eventually, the fascination with the "'slop and slump" style has given way to more thoughtful approaches to making art, and combinations of forms and materials are beginning to extend glass beyond the limits of glassblowing. Many artists are exploring sculptural concepts which require pre-designed careful planning, as opposed to the accidental forms of process.
A few artists are able to control the blowing process through a mastery of skills and stylistic finesse, and thus have managed to develop a unique personal style which goes beyond tradition. Other artists, who have a message to convey or ideas to express, have simply chosen glass for its richness and unique characteristics, and are creating works of art with little or no historic precedent. A careful look at the glass movement reveals a variety of styles and approaches from reactionary to intellectual, from commercial to conceptual, from accidental to designed… all showing a degree of skill and energy unmatched in American glass history.
The vitality of this artistic movement is typically American in its incongruous unity. We have no real theme or goal to follow as a common pursuit. The strength comes from the material and from the expressive nature of the artists. There are traditional roots to most of what is being done, but many individual points of view have imposed modern concerns upon tradition. The objects themselves demonstrate the energy of the movement. The excitement is high and the future promises more surprise, more innovation, and a great deal of enjoyment for all involved.