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 the curatorial team.
The curators at The Corning Museum of Glass come from backgrounds as diverse as their specialties. But something they have in common is their love for the collection and being able to share and talk about it with our guests; through the exhibitions they curate, the tours they give, and the lectures they present.
So, if you’ve already binge-watched everything on Netflix or simply can’t remember the last time you geeked out on an unusual topic, then our curators have some ideas for you. Several times a year, the Museum hosts a lecture series called Behind the Glass and invites amazing artists, researchers, and deep glassy thinkers to the Museum to give cool talks to our members and guests. Fortunately for us, many of these talks were recorded and are available on our YouTube channel for times just like these when we can’t stray far from the couch. We asked our curators to share their favorites.
Alexandra Ruggiero, Curator of Modern Glass
“One of my all-time favorite Behind the Glass lectures is Life & Death in Pompeii and Herculaneum with Dr. Paul Roberts. Dr. Roberts is such a spirited speaker, and I can vividly remember sitting in the audience, on the edge of my seat, and feeling so energized as I heard him bring to life the people and objects of Pompeii and Herculaneum. Glass was, of course, central to his talk. I love it when he shows a pane of glass for windows of a conservatory (30:50)! And he speaks about cameo glass too, of which we have amazing examples in the Museum’s collection, including Roman examples like the Morgan Cup and late 19th century replicas like this copy of the Roman-era Portland Vase.”
Editor’s Note: Alexandra isn’t alone – this is our most popular Behind the Glass video on YouTube, with over 28,000 views!
Linnea Seidling, Curatorial Assistant
“My favorite Behind the Glass lecture was Karen LaMonte’s 2019 presentation. I remember this lecture in particular because it was the first time I learned in-depth about the Corning Specialty Glass Residency. She showed fantastic images and videos of how she casts large-scale glass sculptures and spoke about her new research. I walk by her sculpture Evening Dress with Shawl almost every day at the Museum. It was great to learn more about this piece that is both a favorite of mine and with our Museum visitors, and to see how her work has changed since she made it in 2004.”
Christopher Maxwell, Curator of Early Modern Glass
“Love his work or hate it, there’s no denying that Jeff Koons is one of the most prominent artists of the late-20th and early-21st centuries. What’s more, in 2017, he was in town to work with Corning Incorporated scientists in developing a new type of glass for a future body of work! Glass had also inspired an earlier piece by Koons, namely Baccarat Crystal Set (1986), consisting of Baccarat decanters and vessels rendered in stainless steel.
Baccarat is the most famous name in French glass. The company was founded in 1764, and it’s no surprise to learn we have many fine examples in the museum. Perhaps the most striking (some would say ‘kitsch’ and ‘over the top’) is our table mounted with a punchbowl shaped like a boat, complete with gilt-bronze putti. I certainly think there’s something Koons-esque about it.”
Susie J. Silbert, Curator of Postwar and Contemporary Glass
“There are a lot of things I love about my job, but one of the most rewarding is working on the Rakow Commission. Every year since 1986, the Museum has commissioned an artist—usually an emerging one—to make a new work for the collection. As part of the work’s unveiling, the Rakow Commission recipient gives a Behind the Glass lecture.
The talks are a great deep dive into the artist’s work, their thought processes, and approaches. And because the artists are emerging, this is often one of the first talks they’ve given! This was certainly true for David Colton’s recent Rakow Commission talk. It was quite literally the first lecture he’s ever given and it was great. He was speaking about Untitled, Corning Museum, from the exhibition New Glass Now. The piece is the very first glass marijuana pipe ever accessioned by an art museum, and David met the challenge of introducing new audiences to this material. His talk is sensitive, humble, and expansive. Worth a watch! And for a follow-up, watch the 14-minute video the Museum made about him and his work.”
Katherine Larson, Curator of Ancient Glass
“Abidemi Babalola’s lecture on early glassmaking in Nigeria opened my eyes to a whole new region and way of making and shaping glass in the ancient world. He talks about his work at the archaeological site of Ile-Ife in Nigeria, the earliest known location for glass making in Africa outside of Egypt. Abidemi’s research (which the Museum supported with a Rakow Grant for Glass Research) has helped re-write glass history in Africa, and, by extension, the global history of glass. It places Yoruba and Krobo beadwork made in west Africa centuries later, such as the examples on display in the Museum’s 35 Centuries of Glass gallery, into a much deeper and richer historical and cultural context. It makes me wonder… what else is awaiting discovery?”
Marvin Bolt, Curator of Science and Technology
“Mark Peiser’s ‘Meet the Artist‘ lecture is my pick. His work brings together science and art in explicit and powerful ways. His iconic pieces explore the Museum’s iconic 200-inch disk, which he described in this incredibly profound sentence: “The 200-inch disk was intended to reflect light, but instead, it has captured it.” That was the moment I knew that I was in the right museum.”
Here are some other honorable mentions among the curators’ favorites:
Still not enough? We’ve got dozens more hours of content on our Behind the Glass playlist. Do you have a favorite or a special memory of a lecture you were able to attend? Comment and let us know.
Click here to read the previous post in this series by The Rakow Library’s associate librarian, Regan Brumagen.