Today’s post is from Museum Explainer Elizabeth Caroscio, who is currently a student at Drew University.
Glass as a medium is extraordinarily unique in so many ways. One area in which glass is unique that is of great interest to me is the number of women artists who have worked with glass over the last several decades. When you visit all of the major museums in the world, the walls and cases are filled with objects and artworks that were done almost exclusively by men. However, when visitors to the Corning Museum walk into the Ben W. Heineman Sr. Family Gallery of Contemporary Glass, there are many women artists represented. The number of women artists exhibited is almost equal to that of men. Many visitors may think this is true of all modern art, but in fact it is not. In most other media, women artists are still fighting to get gallery space to show their work.
As a young woman who is going into the Art History field, I began to wonder why this was. I sat down and spoke with the Museum’s curator of modern glass, Tina Oldknow, about this subject. During our conversation I learned a lot about the role of women in glassmaking today. Historically, glassmakers were almost exclusively men; however, in the past several decades the number of women in the glassmaking world has become about equal to that of men. They are also present in all areas—not just techniques like flameworking and casting, but also glassblowing, which requires a certain amount of strength. Generally, there are more women working in craft-associated materials compared to other art forms. Tina Oldknow says that another major reason is because most artists in glass do not work alone. Painters, sculptors and photographers work alone most of the time when they are creating, but most glass artists work with assistants, in teams. When you see glass being blown live on the Museum’s Hot Glass Show stage you will see this teamwork in action. Working together to create art encourages a sense of community in the medium.
This does not mean that there is no room for improvement when it comes to accepting and displaying the work of women glass artists. Some of these artists say that it is hard to balance their lives when they also want to be wives and mothers; however, we are currently moving rapidly in the right direction. I am proud to work for a museum that is progressive in displaying woman artists. I still am not sure what period or medium I want to study as I continue on in my education, but glass will always be what drew me to the field of art, and I would love to continue studying it and possibly working with it. The fact that the field is so accepting of women makes me even more confident in my educational and professional decisions.