Favorite Things: Anthem of Joy in Glass

Anthem of Joy in Glass

Anthem of Joy in Glass, Vera Liskova, Czechoslovakia, Prague, 1977 (79.3.14).

This week’s object is a favorite of William Gudenrath, Resident Adviser, The Studio

It still catches me by surprise when I get tongue-tied while standing in front of Anthem of Joy in Glass by Vera Liskova. The first time it happened was during a taping of the Martha Stewart Show. I was asked to give a tour of the galleries, impromptu and on camera.

We sailed along comfortably from ancient glass through the Renaissance, approaching Art Nouveau. After a brief homage to the birth of studio glass, the crew lit Anthem of Joy and rewired me for sound. The producer said, “We’re rolling,” and it happened: I was speechless. More accurately, I was unable to speak. I coughed, feigned ignorance, and suggested that Tina Oldknow, our curator of modern glass, finish the tour. The crew never knew the impact this object had on me, so unexpectedly.

In Anthem of Joy, Liskova, working with a master scientific glassblower, exploits brilliantly the most basic exercise in a beginning lampworking class: pulling points. A couple of inches of tubing are heated in a flame. Each side is then pulled apart a foot or so to create an evenly narrowing “isthmus” between the wider parts. Next, using a handtorch, the tubes are joined at their sides. The otherwise mundane technical virtuosity is transcended because of the careful grading of the diameters and lengths of the tubes and points. The Fibonacci-like effect references iconic aspects of the natural world and living creatures.

Why does Anthem of Joy so intensely speak to me? I began studying lampworking at age 12 by (how else?) pulling thousands of points. At 16, I fell in love with the music of Bach and began studying the organ with its endless rows of shiny metal pipes, each exponentially longer than the one before. The middle name of my beloved wife is “Joy.” But it is, of course, impossible to fully explain any of our emotional preferences, much less our aesthetic leanings.

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