Lifeforms 2016: Inspired by Blaschka

As a curator, I get really excited about forms, art, and stories from the past. For the past two-and-a-half years, I’ve been researching and working on co-curating our current exhibition, Fragile Legacy: the Marine Invertebrate Glass Models of Leopold and Rudolf Blaschka. And for the past two-and-a-half years, I’ve been unable to contain my excitement and awe at the work of this amazing father-and-son team. Often, I find I’m more excited about the historic topics I research than those around me. This time, though, I discovered I’m in excellent company …

Lifeforms at 171 Cedar Arts Center

View of Lifeforms exhibition at 171 Cedar Arts Center.

One of my favorite things about the Blaschkas is how their work continues to generate excitement today. Our Museum has wonderful examples of artists inspired by the Blaschkas throughout our galleries. We’re also lucky to have additional examples on display in the nearby Lifeforms 2016 exhibition, on view until June 22 at 171 Cedar Arts Center in Corning, New York.

In the course of their lives, Leopold and Rudolf became masters at capturing in glass the brilliance and beauty of living specimens: both marine invertebrates (like those currently on display at CMoG) and botanical models (like those at Harvard University). Subtle variations of color, delicate forms, and attention to detail are found in every model Leopold and Rudolf crafted. The Blaschkas’ unparalleled skill remains an inspiration for contemporary artists.

Porpita mediterranea (1885)

Blaschka Nr. 216
Porpita mediterranea (1885)
Porpita porpita (2016)
Leopold (1822–1895) and Rudolf (1857–1939) Blaschka
Germany, Dresden, 1885
Lent by Cornell University, Department of Ecology and
Evolutionary Biology

Lifeforms 2016 is an exhibition of glass models made in the spirit of Leopold and Rudolf Blaschkas’ famous marine invertebrate and botanical models. Dr. Marvin Bolt (co-curator of Fragile Legacy) and I had the opportunity to speak with the organizers of the Lifeforms exhibition, Robert Mickelsen and Heather McElwee, back in the summer of 2015. Their energy and enthusiasm around the work of the Blaschkas was infectious. Marv and I have been anxiously waiting to see the contemporary works inspired by the historic objects we’ve been working with so closely.

Last week, we had the opportunity to see Lifeforms 2016 and we weren’t disappointed: delicate glass forms, vibrant color, and realistically portrayed specimens bring to life the spirit of beauty and detail found in the Blaschkas’ work. If you live in, or are visiting, the Corning area, we encourage you to swing by Lifeforms 2016. For those unable to attend before the show’s close, you can see a digitized pamphlet and virtual tour of the exhibition online.

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