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 Stephanie Carr, a graphic designer in our Marketing Department.
Growing up in Corning, I became quite familiar with The Corning Museum of Glass. From class field trips and student art shows, I found myself entering those large glass doors and finding something new that piqued my interest every time. Massive bowls of fruit, flying boats, and paperweights that contained miniature worlds were all so…cool! Now, as a designer and artist, I have a better understanding of what made those pieces and many more so visually appealing and memorable. In this blog, I want to highlight eight of these objects, and the elements of design they represent to me.
Disclaimer: No one can officially agree on how many elements of design there are (try googling it if you’d like a chuckle), so for the purpose of this post, I have chosen six elements: line, shape, color, space, texture, and size.
Line – Tree of Life by Frank Lloyd Wright (92.4.175)
This is easily one of my favorite pieces in the Museum’s collection, using one of my favorite methods of glassmaking: cut and assembled glass. Stained glass is like the ultimate puzzle in my mind. There’s an overall design, and hundreds sometimes thousands of small pieces to make it. The unsung hero of stained-glass windows is the lead outlines (called ‘came’) that contain and frame the glass pieces. Using vertical, horizontal, and diagonal lines, Wright boils the organic shape of a tree down into simple geometric shapes. In this case, the lines are done simplistically enough that you hardly notice them at all, allowing them to do their job of connecting the pieces of the image.
Shape – Cutting Process Dish by T. G. Hawkes & Company (2008.4.106)
The parts I love the most about this piece are not only the emerging shapes and patterns but how it is a perfect representation of the creative process. With each highlighted step, the artist’s vision comes to light. And while this piece was intended to provide understanding to the glass cutting process, it also shows how art can come from anything.
Color – Hanging Lamps by Massimo Vignelli (2011.3.103 and 2011.3.104)
I will admit that I didn’t notice these pieces, until a friend and fellow graphic designer pointed them out to me. Color can sometimes be the Achilles heel to artists and designers. There’s a very fine line between using it to complement your work, and completely taking it over. I think the saying “with great power comes great responsibility” is very fitting when it comes to color. It has the ability to influence the emotional response to the piece for the good or the bad. What I like about these lamps is the simple but powerful color palette Vignelli chooses. A graphic designer himself, his ability to use both warm and cold colors heightens the impact of the horizontal and vertical lines in a way that is pleasing and effective.
Space – Global Cities by Norwood Viviano (2017.4.4)
This room-size installation is a perfect example of how space can be used effectively in a compelling work. With the assistance of a map, a printed wall graphic, and 33 hanging pieces, Viviano conveys the population changes in major cities over several years. Compiling that much information and data in a visually compelling way is every designer’s dream.
I can clearly recall Evening Dress with Shawl from my school visits to the Museum. I was always fascinated by how the glass fabric fell and pooled on the floor, as well as the “invisible hands” that held up the shawl. For Nocturne 5, Lamonte again captures an incredibly lifelike texture to the fabric as it twists, turns, and cascades around the female figure.
Size – Cephaloproteus Riverhead (Four Hearts, Ten Brains, Blue Blood Drained through an Alembic) by Dustin Yellin (2019.4.180)
Talk about size! When I first saw this piece in the recent New Glass Now exhibition, I was shocked by just how massive it was, standing at just shy of 6 feet tall! The best part about this piece is the contrast between the overall size and the small, frozen-in-time scenes that comprise it. Yellin uses this contrast beautifully to capture the difference between the natural world and the man-made one.
Glass is a tantalizing and beautiful medium for art and design. It has the ability to capture the attention of any person from all walks of life. Whether young or old, artistic or scientific, there is some form of glass for everyone. Hopefully, I’ve inspired you to not only look at those “cool” things but to discover further those details that make them fascinating and unforgettable.
Click here to read the previous post in this series by the Museum’s photographer, Andy Fortune.