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Antifragile: Contemporary Glass

Sat, 04/06/2013 - 10:00am to Sun, 07/28/2013 - 5:00pm
Museum of Wisconsin Art
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This exhibition will shatter any preconceptions you might have had about glass and will make you think about glass in a new, fresh light while marveling at what masters of their medium can do. Antifragile will demonstrate that the studio glass movement is alive and well in Wisconsin and that the selected artists, many of whom have national and international reputations, are producing work with remarkable confidence, originality and panache.

Studio glass, compared to other art forms such as painting and sculpture, is relatively speaking, still in its infancy having only begun in Madison in the early 1960s. What is remarkable is that over the subsequent 50 years it has reached a level of sophistication and maturity beyond anyone’s imagination. Instead of factory-produced decorative and functional glassware being the norm, artists became designer/makers, enhancing their skills to the point where glass is almost used as a canvas to convey meaning, message and inspiration. Stellar examples of this are in this exhibition, together with others who have taken the possibilities of glass further, creating conceptual pieces that address such subjects as genetically modified foods, climate change, mortality inherited from the 17th century tradition of still-life paintings, and light as the source of creation and discovery.

That Wisconsin has remained a tremendously strong state for studio glass production is evident by the geographic diversity of the featured artists: Stephan Cox (River Falls), James and Renee Engebretson (Hudson), Steve Feren (Fitchburg), Audrey Handler (Verona), Wes Hunting (Princeton), Lisa Koch (Madison), Beth Lipman (Sheboygan Falls), Thomas and Rebecca Maras (Hudson), Mick Meilahn (Pickett), Karen Naylor (Wilmot), Nolan Prohaska (New Richmond), Chuck Savoie (Ripon), Douglas and Renee Sigwarth (River Falls), and Stephanie Trenchard and Jeremy Popelka (Sturgeon Bay).

While working in the same medium, these artists (who are all formally trained), consciously or subconsciously maintain what can be regarded as a Wisconsin tradition: a legacy of self-taught artists who cherish their independence and eschew trends and fads. Another unifying factor is that their diverse and predominantly rural locations offer something that is extremely beneficial: quality of life and ease of production. In short, they can afford to run independent studio facilities that might be prohibitive in larger urban areas. Additionally, their relative isolation means less distraction, leading to another standout feature: the uniqueness of each artist’s work and development of styles that are instantly recognizable.