Glassmaking has been around for 35 centuries. However, truly appreciating its evolution and artistic capabilities goes far beyond picking out a crystal pattern or buying a glass figurine. A visit to the Corning Museum of Glass in New York and watching “Blown Away,” a competition debuting in June on Netflix, leaves viewers aware of the art form’s challenges and charm.
The Corning Museum of Glass is located in the Finger Lakes region city of Corning (midway between New York City and Toronto, Canada). It features one of the most comprehensive collections of glassworks, tracing its history and illustrating the artistry involved in the medium. The more than 50,000 pieces in museum’s collection show how glass originated and its uses over time. The historical journey includes:
- One of the earliest known portraits, an ancient glass sculpture of an Egyptian king from about 1450-1400 B.C.;
- Several pieces showing craftsmanship from Murano, including a Venetian enameled glass commemorating a marriage in 1495;
- Irish crystal that mades towns like Waterford famous;
- Stunning glass furniture and a Baccarat punch bowl from London’s 1851 Crystal Palace;
- Tiffany lamps and stained glass windows; and
- A special gallery on Corning, from its founding through CorningWare, Pyrex, developing initial light bulbs for Thomas Edison, and more.
The Corning Museum of Glass also displays recent works that demonstrate characteristics that make glass such a diverse medium. The objects and creative versions of household items show how artists exploit the reflective capabilities, transparency, and fragility of glass.
One interesting piece, “The Continuous Mile” by Liza Lou, looks like a black metal rope artfully displayed. However, it is actually a mile-long sculpture composed of more than 4.5 million glass beads created by beadworkers in South Africa that has been coiled into a free-standing sculpture. There is even a section of her “rope” nearby for visitors for inspect closely and handle.
An eye-catching set of works by Klaus Moje, “The Portland Panels: Choreographed Geometry” involves fused pieces of colored glass that is cooled, cut, and assembled into patterns.
The exhibit, “New Glass Now,” features innovative works from the past three years by 100 artists representing 32 nationalities worldwide. On display at Corning until January 5, 2020, the pieces show the evolution of glassworks and include:
- “Vestige” by Japanese born Sachi Fujikake, blown glass and sandblasted pieces that look like featherweight pillows
- “Smokey Comet Installation 1” by American Toots Zynsky uses pulled strings of glass slumped and assembled that look like ponytails
- “Vessel Line-Up” by Angela Thwaites from the United Kingdom, that consists of visually interesting vessels that were 3-D printed, then molded and cast in glass
Netflix Competition Pieces
The Netflix series, “Blown Away,” pits glass artists against each another. The series will start with 10 glassblowers, with one eliminated each episode. While the show will not be available until June, pieces created by the artists involved are now on display at the Corning Museum of Glass.
The Corning facility has long been renowned for its glassmaking programs. To appreciate the artistry and difficulty involved in working with glass, the museum offers live glassblowing demonstrations every day, as well as demonstrations of other techniques.
Additionally, visitors can opt to make their own work of glass. Costs vary based on type of project, from sandblasted cups to fused household items like clocks to jewelry created via flamework or glassblown vases or ornaments.
The Netflix “Blown Away” competition will undoubtedly interest people in glasswork and visiting Corning and the Museum of Glass. While they are far from any major city, they are worth the journey.
By Dyanne Weiss
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Photo by Dyanne Weiss of glass table with metal frame made by Baccarat in France 1889-1905 and blown glass in gilded silver Baccarat boat from 1900.
Photo of “The Portland Panels: Choreographed Geometry,” by Klaus Moje, Portland, OR, 2007. Lent by David Kaplan and Glenn Ostergaard. Photo by Ryan Watson, courtesy Bullseye Gallery, Portland. L.1.4.2014, and the Corning Museum of Glass