Explore the Secret Life of Glass with Spencer Finch

Where will you be at 4:30 pm this Friday (February 24, 2023)?

Join us for the Spencer Solstice*!

Visit the Museum and see Spencer Finch’s incredible glass window, The Secret Life of Glass, as it relives the very moment that inspired the artist six years ago. And, like travelers returning to Stonehenge for each summer or winter solstice, perhaps you’ll come back every year to mark the occasion.

Guests enjoy Spencer Finch’s The Secret Life of Glass up close.

Spencer Finch (USA) is a renowned, contemporary artist who uses poetry, art, history, and science to investigate the mechanics of perception. His installations have been collected and exhibited internationally, in them he explores the beauty and complexity of everyday moments and has attempted to capture the indescribable qualities of light, color, and reflection. These attributes are abundant in The Secret Life of Glass (2020.4.1), which began its life on that seemingly ordinary day at our Museum: February 24, 2017.

To create this work, thermal images of an exterior glass curtain wall (the same wall where the work now stands) were captured over the course of that winter’s day in February. When examining the data, Finch honed in on an image captured at 4:30 in the afternoon, in which the range of temperatures experienced by the glass formed the pattern of a wave. Using this fleeting afternoon moment as his starting point, Finch translated the temperatures by assigning colors—inspired by the color palette favored by French Impressionist painter Henri Matisse—to each four-degree temperature range. The result is a poetic interpretation of “the secret life” of window glass as it is exposed to the interplay of sunlight and air at any given moment.

Spencer Finch (center) collaborating on the fabrication of The Secret Life of Glass at Bullseye Studio of Bullseye Glass Co. in Portland, Oregon.
Spencer Finch (center) collaborating on the fabrication of The Secret Life of Glass with Bullseye Studio of Bullseye Glass Co. in Portland, Oregon.

As described by Finch in his project proposal: “With this work, I am using the decorative elements of glass to describe the technical aspects and physical properties of the material. By considering the transparency of glass, one of its most basic characteristics, and the ways transparency masks a complex interaction with the environment, I am trying to engage and celebrate the complexity of the material as well as the wonder of human perception.”

The finished work, constructed by Bullseye Glass Company in Portland, Oregon, stands 12 feet tall by 28 feet wide and is composed of 16 fused and laminated glass panels held together in an aluminum grid. Its stature, along with its gloriously bright colors, creates an impression long before you find yourself standing in front of it.

If you enter the Museum through the courtyard, you’ll see it before you even get inside. If you’re standing on the far, eastern end of the Innovation Center, you can catch glimpses of it from all the way across the Museum. Or, if you’re in the Contemporary Art + Design Galleries, you can see it at work without even realizing what’s causing the glow on people’s faces as they stand nearby. But nothing compares to seeing it up close, especially with the afternoon sun at its back.

Because, at this time of day, the West Bridge is bathed in a wash of bright pink, blue, yellow, and green. The carpet glows, the white walls feel warm, and the air seems charged with energy. It’s quite simply magical.

“Glass is a common material in our day-to-day lives, but we usually don’t give it a second thought. Much attuned to the Museum’s mission, The Secret Life of Glass compels us to stop to consider the power and the presence of this incredible material,” said Karol Wight, President and Executive Director of The Corning Museum of Glass, of the Museum’s first site-specific commission since the opening of the Contemporary Art + Design Wing in 2015.

So, why not make Spencer Solstice* your new annual tradition to enjoy this and all the artwork on display at The Corning Museum of Glass. We’ll see you there!

*This is not a Museum event.

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