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The wonders and possibilities of glass

Jan 29, 2007 by Sasha Vasilyuk, The Examiner

Altman’s “Empty Heads” are made out of crushed glass and poignantly describe the fragility of man.

SAN FRANCISCO

The sparkle and variety at the excellent new exhibit at the Museum of Craft + Design reminds one of Murano, the famed Venetian island that teems with multicolored creations of blown glass.wall mounted crushed glass head

Yet upon a closer look, “CCA: A Legacy in Studio Glass,” which celebrates 40 years of glass-making at California College of the Arts, reveals an entirely different process and results that share little with traditional glass masters of the Old World.

Unlike in Europe, where one person designs the glass piece and another crafts it in a factory setting, American glass artists go through a different method, invented in the 1960s.

Using an inexpensive glass furnace, they can control the entire process — from designing to blowing — right in their studios.

As the exhibit’s curator Carolyn Kastner explains, this new, personalized studio glass art was the American contribution to the long tradition of glassmaking.

Even when the artists choose similar subjects, their treatments are incomparable. While Bruce Pizzichillo’s huge glass house, called “Homestay Lombok,” looks nothing like glass, Mary Bayard White’s light blue brick house on a movable metal stand celebrates the translucency of the medium.

And although Charles Parriott and Lynne-Rachel Altman have both created glass heads, neither their use of the medium nor the subject matter bear any similarity. Altman’s “Empty Heads” are made out of crushed glass and poignantly describe the fragility of man. Parriott’s painted and lit “Urban Soldiers,” on the other hand, are anything but fragile.

In its subject matter, “CCA: A Legacy in Studio Glass” is seemingly a narrow study of a use of one medium in one place, but instead it reveals a great variety of techniques, styles, and ideas, and, most importantly, never gets monotonous.