Half the fun with glass is trying to discover what message the artist meant to convey, if any, with their piece and then trying to decide what you see when looking at the piece. My favorite piece in the Museum took me nearly a month to figure out, despite walking by it every day. When I did finally realize what it was and what the artist’s methodology and message were, I fell in love with the piece. It’s clever and thought-provoking and it’s really fun to watch realization dawn in the eyes of a visitor when they realize what they’re actually looking at.
My favorite piece is called Forest Glass, by Katherine Gray, an American glass artist. Gray is an accomplished glassblower of both non-functional and functional glass vessels. Though her skills as a glassblower have landed her in several museums, Forest Glass is a departure from her usual style in the sense that she did not blow a single one of the 2,000 glass cups used in the piece. Instead, Gray bought used glass cups at thrift stores and on eBay varying in colors from clear glass to shades of brown and green. Once she acquired all of the 2,000 glass cups, Gray arranged them by color on stands created from Plexiglas and steel to create three separate trees, complete with brown trunks and green leaves.
At first glance, one tends to just walk by the piece or even stop and wonder why there are three stands of shelves filled with glass cups looking like a really big kitchen cupboard in the Museum. But once people realize that there are trees shaped from the glasses, surrounded by clear glass, giving it an ethereal and airy feel, the piece becomes whimsical and fun. However, the message behind the trees is one of caution and consciousness.
Forest Glass is a piece about the destruction that is a result of the creation of things, specifically with glass. Many forests were destroyed in order to fuel glass furnaces, thereby destroying whole forests in the pursuit of creating something new and beautiful. By creating the piece entirely out of found glass cups, Gray is recreating the forest that was destroyed in order to fuel the glassmaking industry. While beautiful and fanciful, the image of the glass trees among the glass air also encourages humans to be conscious of the devastation that beauty can cause. Gray’s piece is one with character and depth, layers to peel back and understand. That’s why it’s my favorite piece in the Museum.
– Casey Lewis, Graduate Intern, Education Department