Smooth as Glass

A translucent sewing machine, neon bananas, a wall of blown glass fish— these and other arresting art pieces are part of the Fired Up: Glass Today exhibition at the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art in Hartford, Connecticut. The show includes 57 artists whose medium of choice is glass and who are exploring new ground in the art form.

“When we think about contemporary glass our minds often go to glass blowing,” says Brandy Culp, the Richard Koopman Curator of American Decorative Arts at the Wadsworth, “but the show is comprehensive, and involves many different artists and many different techniques, such as coldworking, flameworking, hot sculpting, slumping, fusing, and more.”

Visitors to the exhibition may be surprised to see the intriguing results of these techniques, says Culp. “We think that we know glass and we have these expectations for what that should be, but I think that the exhibition exceeds that and changes our perspective of what’s happening in glass today.”

Since the exhibition opened in September 2022, the Wadsworth has offered a lineup of related programs and events, including live glassblowing demonstrations at the museum. “The interactive workshops and opportunities for visitors to participate have been so dynamic and fun,” says Culp. “We set up a ‘hot shop’ with Mobile Glassblowing Studios, and have hosted internationally renowned glass artists as well as students from the Hartford Art School who are working in glass to bring the magic of the material to the public.”

Even after the exhibit closes in February 2023, visitors to the Wadsworth Atheneum will be able to view some of the art pieces from the show, including the popular and whimsical “Neon Wallpaper.” “We have made some acquisitions already and we hope to strengthen our collection even more moving forward,” says Culp. “Through Fired Up, we’ve connected to many local artists, collectors, and galleries, and will build on those friendships, so you will see more contemporary glass in the Wadsworth galleries.

“Glass artist Tim Tate, whose work is featured in the show and who hosted a lecture with me, said that this exhibition has become a phenomenon within the glass world,” notes Culp, who adds that the exhibition’s galleries have been filled with laughter and chatter from visitors of all ages. “As a curator and educator, it has been transformative to see this kind of engagement, and I hope this proves to be not just a moment but a movement in glass art.”

Fired Up: Glass Today is on view at The Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art until February 5, 2023. Visit  www.thewadsworth.org  for more information about this show as well as other upcoming exhibitions and programs.

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