In 2019, mixed media artist David Nasca was selected as a recipient for the 2020 David Whitehouse Research Residency for Artists. Despite having to postpone his residency due to the COVID-19 pandemic, The Museum was able to host David this year instead, from May 31 to June 18, 2021.
During the pandemic, David became a New York State resident again (he was born in Buffalo, but now lives and works in the Pilsen neighborhood of Chicago, IL.) in order to undertake a Master of Fine Art program at Cornell University. This change meant David met all COVID-19 compliance requirements outlined by the state and could finally begin his research here in Corning.
David is a sculptor whose work draws from themes of “queer futurism, reimagined biology, and personal fantasy,” he says. He is often inspired by animal lifeforms, in particular deep-sea organisms and the niche world of fishing lures. He is also particularly interested in invertebrate reproductive strategies as metaphors for queer sexuality and attraction.
David’s residency at the Rakow Research Library will focus on the invertebrate models of 19th-century glass artists Rudolph and Leopold Blashka. The Rakow’s archive has more than 900 drawings and provides access to additional glass models not currently on display. David hopes to learn about construction models and methods and the materiality of glass as a sculptural tool.
“I love research and I think research is an important part of my art practice,” said David. “So, this residency has really given me the time to dive deep into some objects that fascinate me and an opportunity to use all the resources available at The Corning Museum of Glass to plan a new body of work.”
We caught up with David on the last day of his residency to find out how things went.
Q. David, how did you first become aware of the Blaschka models?
“I once did a project on vinyl soft sculptures based on marine life and I did a Google search and came across the Blaschka models. I quickly became enthralled with them. But to my knowledge, there were none in Chicago to see, so when I came back to visit family in Buffalo in 2019 I took a trip out to The Corning Museum of Glass to see the ones on public display for the first time.”
Q. What inspiration do you take from them?
“Aesthetically they are so beautiful, but that’s just because I think sea creatures are beautiful. My big takeaway from this residency is thinking about how the Blaschkas were constantly pushing materials and techniques throughout their careers, combining stuff, and using things we wouldn’t think of as glass working skills, in order to make these models. Which makes me think about how they would work today with access to modern materials and modern glass colors that they didn’t have, like a crazy borosilicate palette.”
Q. You had an opportunity to visit the warehouse and view the Museum’s full Blaschka collection. Were there any surprising insights about the construction process that the Blaschkas used to create the marine models?
“Yes! It’s funny, what you see in museums and online is always the most perfect models, and they’re always gorgeous, but seeing the broken ones is cool too. I got really into these dissection models of sea cucumbers. It’s like when you have a favorite song but then you listen to the full album and realize these new songs are the better songs, not the hits, that’s how I felt walking through the warehouse.”
Q. How might your work evolve following this residency?
“I don’t have a glass studio background, I love all materials, but I’m really excited to come back and work at The Studio this year. I’m living in Ithaca so I’m probably going to be back at least once a month working with glass and combining that with some of the materials I already work with like silicone or ceramic. Before this, I had only taken a weekend class with Richard Whiteley and I cast a piece that was inspired by the Blaschkas, but that was really my first time with glass, so I’m excited to learn more.”
Q. You spent time with the Museum’s curators, artists, and conservators during your residency, how did these meetings help to inform your research?
“Another big takeaway for me is how welcoming The Studio is. I’ve done a few nights of flameworking, which is new to me, and people are super eager to help and teach you stuff, which is really great. Talking with the Museum’s Conservator Astrid van Giffen was amazing, she is the expert on the Blaschkas! We really got into how the Blaschkas constructed things and how conserving the models is done. But I also had a really good meeting with Curator Susie Silbert.
“I’ve been thinking about how ‘frozen’ the Blaschka models are and so I’ve thought about how I can animate sea creatures—because a sea anemone is not a perfectly posed and beautiful thing, right? So, I’ve been thinking about that both conceptually and with the idea of actually making something move. I’ve been working with a digital sculpting app and my partner in Chicago is an animator, so maybe that’s a future project where I sculpt something and then animate it.”
We are so pleased to have finally welcomed David Nasca to the Museum this year and want to thank him for his time with us and his interest in our collections. We are thrilled to discover what David might do next.
Serving as a conduit to all the resources on offer at the Museum, the Studio, and the Rakow during David’s residency was Stephen Brucker, community projects manager at The Studio. “It has been a great pleasure to host and support David during his residency,” Stephen says. “As a member of the LGBTQ+ community, I found David’s ability to correlate the fragility of rare microcosms of deep-sea life with queer cultural communities in North America to be profoundly interesting.”
To discover more about David Nasca and his work visit his website or follow him on Instagram at @davnasca, and to learn more about the range of residencies on offer at The Museum, and to apply, visit cmog.org.