Lifestyle: Artists

Into The Light

Art Glass Shines At The Four Glass Artists Show In Napeague
By Sam Wilson - July 24, 2019

Time was, contemporary art glass occupied the hinterland between fine art and decorative craft. But with works by distinguished glass makers such as Peter Layton and Dale Chihuly in museum collections, a major survey of the state of the art currently on view at the Corning Museum of Glass in Corning, NY, and the crystal manufacturer Lalique collaborating with artists and architects on blown glass objects, the Studio Glass movement has moved closer to the first camp. Some glass artists are creating site-specific installations; others are experimenting with multi-media works; still others are combining cast, fused, and blown glass into beguiling sculptural forms that catch and hold the light. 

On the East End of Long Island nowhere is that light refracted so brightly as at the Mabel and Victor D’Amico Studio and Archive in Napeague where the show Four Glass Artists runs through September 7. Victor D’Amico was founding director of education at the Museum of Modern Art from 1937 to 1969 and the founder of the Art Barge on Napeague Harbor. His wife, Mabel, an artist, established her studio on the second floor of the modest beachfront home they built in the 1940s at Lazy Point, which houses their archive today. Although Ms. D’Amico wasn’t a glass blower, “she was fascinated by glass and incorporated it into her work,” says Esperanza Leon, administrative coordinator at the Victor D’Amico Institute of Art. In the main room of the Studio and Archive, the so-called Glass Room where the boundary between the bay just beyond the window and the house is very thin, glass is everywhere. There are glass marbles, paperweights, beach glass, found glass, glass mobiles, plates, glass-stoppered bottles, orbs, ashtrays, mosaics, and glass-topped bobbins. “The show arose out of Mabel’s longstanding engagement with the medium,” Leon explains. “The idea was to invite local glass artists whose work explores different terrain than her work did.” 

What all four artists — Bengt Hokanson and Trefny Dix, Marianne Weill, and Andy Stenerson — have in common is a painterly approach to color. The Financial Times has compared Hokanson + Dix’s palette to that found in the work of Howard Hodgkin and Mark Rothko; a luminous cast bronze and cast glass structure by Marianne Weill was inspired by the cobalt blues of Yves Klein. And while Mabel D’Amico’s work was very much rooted in the spirit of place, some of the pieces in the show take their bearings from locations further afield — as far as the South Pole, in the case of Andy Stenerson whose atlas-like rondelles of blown, kiln, and cold-worked glass set into a welded steel frame are among the stand-outs of the show. His is technically accomplished work, with patches of sky-blue appearing beneath gradations of white as if they’d been scraped away or carved by an assured hand. “Without technique, you won’t go far as a glass blower,” says Stenerson, who adds that the skill level is vastly more advanced than what it was thirty years ago when his first instructors had all majored in ceramics. “It’s such a demanding medium, you have to know your craft.” So is art glass an art or a craft? “I think most art is decorative art,” he says. “But really, it’s both. If you’re making new decisions and you’re making them alone, without a client, and if you don’t know where the work is going, it’s art.”

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