Virtual Journeys into our Collection: Thoughts from Three Decades

This recurring blog series will feature virtual gallery walks with staff members from The Corning Museum of Glass. Everyone at our Museum interacts with the collection in different ways depending on the job they do and the perspective they bring. Hear from fascinating people and learn about their favorite objects as they provide a virtual peek at some of the treasures in our collection—and make plans to come see them in person when we reopen! This next comes from Violet Wilson, a senior administrative assistant.

Violet Wilson

When I started working for The Corning Museum of Glass in 1986, I joined the Curatorial Department and would stay there for the next 27 years. I provided administrative support for the curators and was—and still am—the coordinator for the annual New Glass Review publication. As the New Glass Review coordinator, I have been very fortunate to meet many artists that come to Corning to assist with the jurying process each year.

When I was asked to write this blog about my favorite works in our collection, the first artists that came to mind were Stanislav Libenský and Jaroslava Brychtová, who were both teachers and exceptional leaders in the art world. I was in awe of the large-scale cast pieces they made. Libenský and Brychtová visited Corning in 1994 when they and their team came to install our summer exhibition, Stanislav Libenský and Jaroslava Brychtová: A 40 Year Collaboration in Glass.

These large-scale pieces necessitated quite a team of people, and I loved being involved with the exhibition installation as part of our curatorial team. We were like a family and even though I was the administrative support for the department, I helped clean cases, print and install labels, and assisted with any installation requests that came my way. During this project, I remember being particularly amazed by how much the Czechs like their beer—they drink beer like we drink coffee!

Vintage video of Libenský and Brychtová discussing their careers.

I met the Libenskýs again in the late ‘90s when they came for the opening of a new wing of Corning Incorporated Headquarters, which houses a permanent collection of sculptural installations. Corning invited all the artists here for the unveiling and opened its doors to the community. Each person that walked in received a copy of the book Eleven Glass Sculptures, which highlighted the works on view. Each artist sat near their installation and autographed the books as everyone walked through. It was an amazing event and experience—and years later, I still cherish my book today.

Publication in conjunction with the exhibition, Stanislav Libenský and Jaroslava Brychtová: A 40 Year Collaboration in Glass

My favorite piece by Libenský and Brychtová is one in the Corning Incorporated Headquarters titled Green Eye of the Pyramid. I love the vibrant green color and the uniqueness of the piece. It is cast glass and is matted on the front side but has been polished on the backside. If you see the piece you will note that it leans back and is not being held up by anything—the trick is that the glass goes into a track in the floor to keep it standing up. How would the artist know how far into the floor to go to keep the piece from falling over? This piece keeps you guessing.

I also love their work, Meteor, Flower, Bird, which is housed in the Heineman Gallery of Contemporary Glass at the Museum. When I started in the ‘80s this piece was one of the first artworks a visitor saw when they visited the Museum. It was commissioned by the Museum for the opening of an expansion to the Museum in 1980.  At that time, it was installed in what we call the “Crossroads”–a highly trafficked area where people enter the collection galleries.

Libenský and Brychtová’s Meteor, Flower, Bird, 1980 (80.3.13)

As soon as you walk into the gallery, the size and the simplicity of the clear glass and steel structures of this piece draws me in to take a closer look. I am intrigued by the names of each piece. Why were they each named meteor, flower, and bird? I was curious, so I looked the piece up on our website: “Meteor incorporates the Museum’s logo and represents Corning as the international center for information about glass. Flower symbolizes the eternal beauty of glass and reflects the organic, amorphous shape of [the silver building that houses our 35 Centuries of Glass Galleries—and, in fact, was designed in collaboration with the architect.] Bird is represented by the dove of peace, which refers to the global language of glass that is unrestrained by borders.” How cool is that?

Former curator Tina Oldknow describes Meteor, Flower, Bird in this vintage video.

We’re saddened by the passing of Czech artist Jaroslava Brychtová on Wednesday, April 8, 2020. Well known for her work in cast glass, she partnered with her husband Stanislav Libenský to produce large-scale cast glass sculptures throughout her career. Their work was prominently displayed in the United States for the first time in our exhibition, “Glass 1959,” and continues to remain on prominent view in our Contemporary Art + Design Galleries today.

Click here to read the previous post in this series by glassblower Eric Meek.

1 comment » Write a comment

  1. Violet, this is such an interesting article. I think we could work for The Corning Museum of Glass for 100 years and still learn something every day. There are treasures in every gallery and every corner and you did an excellent job of highlighting two amazing artists and their work. Thank you!

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: