From small treasures, incredible collections can blossom. Such is the case for Ennion Society Members Dennis and Barbara DuBois. In 1985, when Dennis surprised his wife with two perfume bottles, it was the start of glass playing an important role in their lives. The gift was cherished, Dennis was inspired to buy another, and their collection began to take shape. In time, perfume bottles gave way to sculpture. Many years later, Dennis and Barbara have one of the finest collections of contemporary glass art in the United States.
“We bought for a few years and then someone called us ‘glass collectors’ and we looked at each other and said, ‘I guess we are!’” Dennis recalls.
Dennis and Barbara both grew up on the North Shore of Boston, MA, but wouldn’t meet until they each began studying at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst. Two years later they were married. They moved to Maryland and welcomed children Darcie and Michael to the family. They would finally relocate south to Dallas, TX, in 1981—where Dennis and Barbara still reside.
In Texas, Dennis worked as General Counsel in the US for a Toronto-based real estate development company but often found himself visiting headquarters in Canada. That’s where he discovered a little art gallery selling perfume bottles. On each subsequent business trip, he always found an opportunity to return and purchase another for his wife.
Although they had been avid collectors of other things, it was glass that really appealed to Dennis and Barbara. “The fact that glass reflects, refracts, and absorbs light has always mesmerized us,” Dennis says. But they didn’t know a great deal about glass at first. “The only thing we knew about glass at the time was that it would break if we dropped it,” Dennis jokes. They began to learn more in earnest.
Like all glass enthusiasts, Dennis and Barbara had heard of The Corning Museum of Glass but the distance between Texas and New York meant it was some time before they could visit. Their first trip, however, was unforgettable. “We were astounded by the depth of the collection,” Dennis recalls. By acquiring the Museum’s publications and DVDs, their glass education truly began. Dennis and Barbara visited again to see the newly completed Contemporary Art + Design Galleries in 2015, and most recently for the opening of last year’s exhibition New Glass Now. Witnessing the scope and ambition of the Museum firsthand, Dennis and Barbara joined the Ennion Society and began to donate objects and support new programming.
“These first visits validated in our minds what we had been espousing as long-time members of the board of the Art Alliance for Contemporary Glass: that sculpture made from glass was indeed fine art,” Dennis says. “And it was rewarding to see pieces in Corning by artists that we had actively collected.”
Over the years it was the works of glass artists Richard Marquis and Dan Dailey that continually caught their eye, and now the pair own more than 30 pieces by these two artists alone. “We not only appreciate their incredible technical expertise but also the humor that each artist imparts in his work.”
In 2009, the collection that Dennis and Barbara had spent years cultivating received a rare honor. “We had the first, and perhaps the only, single-collector exhibition at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston,” Dennis shares. The exhibition, Pioneers of Contemporary Glass, was a great success, and although they didn’t know it at the time, helped cement new connections with The Corning Museum of Glass. Working on the exhibition as an intern was Susie J. Silbert, who would eventually become Curator of Post-war and Contemporary Glass at the Museum. “Susie introduced herself to us one year at SOFA Chicago. We then followed her career and were thrilled that the brilliant people at Corning had the foresight to select her to follow Tina Oldknow,” Dennis says.
“Collecting contemporary glass has changed our lives in many ways,” Dennis concludes. “We’ve been enriched by the experiences we’ve had, the places we’ve been, and the great friendships we have made among fellow collectors, artists, and gallery owners and their staffs. Not to mention the pure enjoyment we experience in living with our glass every day and introducing our passion to the public.”