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Poetry of Glass

During our recent Poetry of Glass workshop, poet and Auburn professor Janelle Green introduced teens to ekphrasis writing inspired by the exhibition, Lino Tagliapietra: Master of Beauty. She prompted the teens to find three pieces in the exhibition, look at them and think about the musicality, the colors, and the movement in them. Once they did that, the teens were tasked with writing poems inspired by each piece but in different styles. They could rhyme or not. The poems could be long or short. Each different to challenge the teens and their writing.

Poems

Untitled

Elizabeth Efferson, age 17
Inspired by Clodia

Glass leaves, like water droplets.
Shattering when they meet the ground.


Father

Vivian Cunningham, age 18
Inspired by both Fenice glass pieces

A S and a C
The initials of a father
The initials of my father
The initials of someone strong
Someone loving
Kind
Cheerful
There
A S and a C
The initials of my father.


Tower

Kamaryn Ellison, age 17
Inspired by Spirale

A spiraling tower.
Is in the distance.
Stretching toward the sky.
It disappears into the clouds.
The heavens open and shower.
The traveler puts up resistance.
Carried on the wind is a yell of “Why.”
The trees everywhere are like a crowd.
In a cave the traveler cowers.
Still the tower is in an upright stance.
The traveler travels and at night arrives.
Having found true shelter the traveler is proud.


The Tempest

Jordan Scott, age 17
Inspired by London

And I was a child again, running by the sea,
I was laughing loudly, with my mother chasing me.
I can almost smell the air.
I can almost touch the sand.
I can almost feel my sister
As she took my hand.
Then I saw the storm,
I saw my calm destroyed
The waves crashed towards me violently
Then I felt a void.
I remember being scared at the suddenness of the storm.
It is a storm in a child’s eyes.
And all of the fears they form.


Crisp

Tamara Phillips, age 16
Inspired by Kuala

Lapis gemstones, bright and blue
Always remind me of you
Warm embraces, or pleasant surprises
You’re the sunsets to my sunrises
Rigid and cold,
Many fear you
But to me, your heart is clear to see through
Yes, you’ve caused plenty of trouble
And you’re not easy to get along with
Yet there’s not a way to find another
That could steal your show
And you should know,
That just like spring,
You’re quite a great thing
One of my favorite seasons of all
Just after fall


Places

Norah Willis, age 17
Inspired by Avventurine Installation

There’s people
There’s places
There’s towns
There’s faces

We move, we live, we breathe
We are in a way, an epiphany

Lines and borders dived our human lands
Though we are all not that different in the times of sands

We are all born
We all die
We have our lows
And we have our highs

We are all created the same,
Though we come in different shapes and sizes

In a lot of ways we are like a vase
One with many shapes

Love your quirks
Love other’s changes
Love your skin
Love other’s fazes

Accept change
Though it’s hard
But not accepting it
Will leave us scars

Be the clay
Change as your shaped
Love your crazy
And love those who are sane

Contemporary Conversations: Lino Tagliapietra

The Artist

Lino Tagliapietra is one of the greatest glass makers alive today. Growing up in Murano, Italy, and achieving the title of maestro (glass master) at the age of twenty, Tagliapietra is known around the world for his various achievements, not only in glass but in life as well. Due to the poor economy in Murano, many young boys and girls would turn to the glass factories as a way to earn for their families; hence, he began learning his craft at the early age of twelve. When asked to describe what life was like growing up in Murano, Lino begins to reminisce:

“[We have] the war in Spain, we have [the] war in Libya, and we have the war in Africa, and we lived with the war I remember. Then we have the second war…we have the Fascists…we have the Nazi. We have the Deutch (German) people, and then we have the American, English. So in Murano, we are surrounded in a sort of way. In one way we are protected, more than Venice. But still there we had somebody die. Somebody who the Nazis thought was a Jew, meaning they went to a camp…and never came back. And even still, living in Murano is a wonderful experience if you like it. [On] the island, we had 6,000 people [when I was growing up], now we have 6,000 people and maybe 7,000 workers. Many, many people. Now [we’ve gone] a little bit down. I think we are probably 5,000 people, but those 6,000 people had to work. They had very, very little money, much less. If you work…in the glass community, you would make maybe $400 – $800. Besides that, Murano is a wonderful island, I like the small island with [the] small village, [because] everybody knows you. We have created quite a few differences between Venice and ourselves because of the war. We have less pollution, it’s possible to play in the water, possible to go in the lagoon and catch the fish. We have a wonderful life, for some reason. We are poor. The shoes, we only have them sometimes, but we play without shoes. We don’t have a pool, but when we [were] kids they put us in the canal. I think there’s no place in the world like Murano, it’s so beautiful.”

For some, the culture shock between Italy and America would create a difficult challenge when adjusting to the lifestyle. For Tagliapietra, he feels his move to America was relatively easy:

“Because I have curiosity…I feel very comfortable in America. In the island, for example, if you aren’t a master, a good master – okay, not necessarily the top – but everybody thinks: ‘Good master, man!’, you know? So a ‘master’ is something ordinary in many ways and they sort of brush you aside. But in America, everybody respects you. They greet you in a very nice way and then you feel so comfortable, and then the American spirit is possible, trying everything you want. I like it because [once] I came to America I [no longer had to] do production, I [could] do what I [wanted] to do… It is a good feeling.”

The Process

Before starting any glassmaking project, one must be equipped with the proper team. Lino Tagliapietra’s team consists of about 25 people, both men, and women, who love glass. The youngest, according to Tagliapietra, has been working for “maybe 9 years,” but nobody would truly know as the group is constantly working together. Their teamwork boils down to their love of glass – their passion for the craft. Little is actually spoken during the process; instead, Tagliapietra and his team communicate with their hands and movements. When someone does speak, it means they are on the right track: simple words to keep everyone on the same page. Tagliapietra speaks very highly of his team of “wonderful glassblowers.” He finishes his statement on the relationship of his team by telling us, “it’s very important to have the right team. The team, for me, is about being surrounded by people who share the same love.” These words speak volumes, reminding us of how important community and teamwork truly is.

When asked if he could summarize the glass making process in a few sentences, we Muses received a chuckle from the maestro and a doubtful “I will try.” He began to summarize:

“Perhaps the most important part of the glass blowing process is having a clear picture of what you want to make: what form you want, how much color, designs with canes—colored ‘canes’ of glass—or without. There are many factors and decisions that need to be addressed before the glass blowing process even begins. After a clear picture has been envisioned, the next step is to start.”

Once Tagliapietra has chosen his design, the process is very simple; his knowledge of glass blowing makes the entire process look ridiculously easy.

As the maestro of glass blowing, we were all very interested to learn whether Mr. Tagliapietra had ever worked with other materials. His response—perhaps not too surprising to some—was that he has never strayed far from glass. He has dabbled in working with clay and admitted to liking the material, but it was “certainly not glass.” Most interestingly, Tagliapietra likes to cook. He says it is the only other “art” he works with well. His ultimate response was, “Normally, I am a very, very monoculture artist. I blow glass. I do not do anything else. Sometimes I do something, but it is best not to because I know glass and it is my profession.”

Taking a look around a room filled with Lino Tagliapietra’s work is breathtaking. Every piece has its own story to tell and each story possesses its own challenges. While Tagliapietra makes glassblowing look simple to the average person, he demonstrated that every piece of his work holds different levels of difficulty. “Just because a piece looks simple doesn’t mean it was easy,” he explained. When asked if he could pick his most complex work, Tagliapietra chose the Spirale. The Spirale is an oblong glass piece with a seemingly impossible helix design at its core. He proceeded to emphasize its complexity even more, explaining that he could not make a single mistake during the creative process. For instance, when blowing out the design, he could not afford to blow too much or too little; the result would have been disastrously out of proportion. Exactness, precision, and patience are key ingredients for any piece of his work.

Legacy

Our time with Lino Tagliapietra has come to an end. We learned much about both the artist and glassblowing itself through his profound words. But we still had one final question to ask: “What would you say to young people today who are interested in glass blowing but fear they won’t be successful?” Perhaps this was the best question to draw our time with the artist to a close.

“We have a lot of people, young people that want to blow glass, and they want to be successful as well. If you want to blow glass, you must love the material, and you must be very dedicated. Normally, that means you don’t do anything else; you must be open, and work every single day. The important thing is to love what you are doing and to have patience. Find very good teachers and good luck. You know, the material is so fantastic, but I’m probably lucky because the only thing I ever did was blow glass. There is a certain joy when you’re working with a material you love.”

Tagliapietra often reiterates how important art is to his life. Whether in naming a work of art after the places he loves, or taking inspiration from the world around him, he continuously lives, thinks, and breathes the love he has for his craft. He stands firmly in his conviction that art is not just something you do, but it is what you live. It requires dedication, patience, and hard work, but if you have a passion, pursue it to the fullest, and do not stop until it is yours. It is easy to see that he lives by those words prophetically.

Conservation: Untitled (Nymph), 1933

The John and Joyce Caddell Sculpture Garden gained its first permanent resident in October when Jessie Duncan Wiggin’s (1872–1954) Untitled (Nymph) took center stage at the top of the new Garden. While many of its current sculptural residents are intended to be temporary visitors, this lovely bronze dancer will be welcoming visitors to the Caddell Sculpture Garden for years to come.

The Nymph’s journey to the Garden began in New York in 1933. The more than six-foot tall figure was cast at the Roman Bronze Works in New York and depicts a mythological spirit of nature, who, as in this case, is generally shown in a celebratory dance. In mythology, nymphs were associated with locations such as woods, rivers, and streams.

Having already been exhibited outdoors for many years in Robert and Virginia Weil’s Montgomery garden, the sculpture’s surface needed to be cleaned and years of accumulated corrosion removed. It is corrosion of the metal that gives bronze exhibited outdoors a characteristic bright green color over the original patina. The Museum consulted with objects conservator, Michelle Savant of Atlanta for the project. A broken finger was repaired, the sculpture was cleaned, and finally, Savant waxed the surface, which will protect it from further deterioration. This process has returned the sculpture’s surface to its original bronze patina.

The Museum has placed Nymph on a limestone plinth at the top of the Garden, in front of a beautiful natural rock wall that defines the northern edge of the Caddell Sculpture Garden itself. As a garden sculpture in the classical tradition of mythological spirits of nature, Nymph represents a convention in Western art that goes back for many centuries: that of showing female figures as celebrations of nature and of the garden’s natural beauty.

Follow the Conservation Process

Conservator Michelle Savant began work on the sculpture Nymph by washing the bronze with a mild soap and using a low-abrasive pad to remove surface dirt and corrosion.

Once the work had been cleaned, the conservator applied wax to its surface to seal it and protect it from the elements. Garden Superintendent Jeff Dutton assisted by heating the surface with a heat gun, which kept the wax flowing to fill any tiny crevices in the surface.

Finally, once the wax had dried and hardened, the surface was buffed with a clean, lint-free fabric. The Museum staff will continue to apply wax as necessary to protect the work over time.

Volunteer Recognition 2018

Last week, we thanked our volunteers at the annual Volunteer Luncheon. During the event, we recognized those whose service went above the call of duty. Collectively, volunteers donated more than 4,500 hours to the Museum. Without their time we could not bring to life the programs and events that you love. We are incredibly grateful to our 200+ volunteers for their work over the past year.

Awards

Outstanding Event Fundraising: Rachael Gallagher for Art in Concert

Outstanding Contribution to the Junior Executive Board: Griff Waller

Outstanding Welcome Desk Volunteer: Helen Till

Rookie of the Year: Sharon Katona

Support of Education Programming: Jack Banker

Outstanding Contribution to Public Programs: Tom Sellers

Museum Interns: Sally Bae, Karvarus Moore, Cael Barragan, and Aline Sluis

Leadership Recognition: Leslie Sanders and Mary Dunn

Become a Volunteer

There are many opportunities to help the Museum, all tailored to the interest of the individual. Volunteer opportunities have a flexible time commitment, so choosing a position that fits your schedule is easy. Learn more and apply at mmfa.org.

Stars Falling on Alabama

Stars Fell on Alabama

On the nights of November 12 and 13, 1833, a dramatic meteor shower occurred in North American that came to be known as “the night of raining fire” or “the night the stars fell.” The celestial show was so dramatic that many believed it to be an omen portending the end of the world. This event provided the themes for a book and song in 1934, each titled “Stars Fell on Alabama,” a phrase that also inspired the title of Thompson’s commissioned window for the Museum in 1999–2000.

In the window, the center panel is the primary element of the composition, featuring an encounter between earthly and heavenly creatures. A host of celestial beings – winged muses and personifications of the sun and moon – shower artistic inspiration in the form of fireworks on the figures below, who draw, make music, or simply marvel at the heavenly wonder. Muses, or personifications of inspiration, float above while in the foreground a group of stargazers sit under a quilt. Each quilt square has an image that is taken from a painting, sculpture, or porcelain from the Museum’s permanent collection.

Specific to Montgomery are the magnolia trees and people. Thompson has also included two self-portraits: the seated artist painting the scene, and the muse in the orange colored gown holding a tambourine. The artist in the center panel is working on a painting within a painting, with fireworks over a dome similar to the one here at the Museum in Blount Cultural Park.

The two flanking windows contain groupings of figures that are representative of Montgomery’s diverse population and culture. On one side, a man and a child gesture toward the center window event, while in the other, musicians play in celebration of a sky raining stars.

The Artist in the Window

The Studio Glass Movement is centered in Seattle, Washington, and Cappy Thompson is one of the stars of this movement of artistic expression. Thompson began her career as an artist of stained glass in 1976, and she developed her reputation as a glass painter when she moved to Seattle in 1984 and began teaching at the Pilchuck Glass School in Standood, Washington. She is known internationally for her painted blown-glass vessels, mostly narrative sequences that illustrate her understanding of and reaction to myths and dreams. Her art centers on narrative–an individual mythology that she has constructed based upon her longstanding love of storytelling and fantasy.

Thompson takes advantage of the transparent, light-transmitting nature of glass to construct stories on the interior of vessels, like the one from the Museum’s permanent collection or in window-walls such as that found in the Museum’s Lowder Gallery. Her subjects convey visual “blessings” or wishes that she conceptualizes as narratives on the painted surface.

Meet the Artist

Credit lines:

Cappy Thompson (American, born 1952), Lovers Sweet Embrace While Dream Chariot Waits, 1997, vitreous enamel reverse painted on free-blown glass, Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts, Gift of Bowen and Carol Ballard, Jim and Jane Barganier, Lucy Blount, John and Joyce Caddell, Dorothy Cameron, Herman and Anne Franco, Ralph and Lila Franco, Mike and Julie Freeman, Corinna Gauntt, Barrie and Laura Harmon, Charles and Donna Ingalls, Richard and Sue Jaffe, Mike and Kent Jenkins, Ray Johnson, Jim and Mary Lynne Levy, Jim and Joan Loeb, Michael and Laura Luckett, Maurice and Peggy Mussafer, Jim Sabel, Philip Sellers, Charles and Winifred Stakely, Andy and Lisa Weil, Jean Weil and Laura Weil, 2000.3

Cappy Thompson (American, born 1952), Stars Falling on Alabama: We Are Enraptured by the Celestial Fireworks of the Muses, 2005, vitreous enamel on glass, Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts Association Commission, 2006.2

Art in the Garden: Jun Kaneko

Behind the Art

Born in Japan during World War II, Jun Kaneko immigrated to the United States in 1963 to study painting at Chouinard, now known as CalArts in California. Soon, he began studying with influential ceramic artists including Peter Voulkos; their experiments in removing the functionality from clay in order to work expressively and abstractly led to what is known as the “American Clay Revolution.”

For the last 40 years Kaneko has worked extensively in Ceramics, Painting, Glass & Bronze. In 1985 he moved to Omaha Nebraska— where his current studios consist of over 80,000 square feet in 4 warehouses. A prolific artist, Kaneko is most renowned for his monumental, cylindrical, and triangular-shaped ceramic forms called “Dango”, the Japanese word for “rounded form”. Kaneko began creating monumental ceramics in 1982 using industrial kilns to produce the tallest single ceramic forms measuring up to 13’ tall. These enormous, playful, and innovative sculptures are not only an impressive technical achievement but also demonstrate his mastery of glazes. His works embody several dualities: the combination of painting and sculpture and the balancing of Eastern and Western ideas.
Featured in exhibitions nationally and internationally, Kaneko’s sculptures are also a part of museum collections around the world including the Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Museum of Arts and Design in New York, the National Gallery of Australia, The National Museum of Art, Osaka, Japan, Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Smithsonian American Art Museum, and the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, England, and the MMFA. His work Untitled (Dango), 2003, is on view in the Museum’s Young Gallery.

Installation of three of Jun Kaneko’s works: Jun Kaneko (Japanese, born 1942), Untitled (Dango), 2004–2007, glazed ceramic, Lent by the artist

Art in the Garden: Joe Minter

Meet the Artist

A self-taught artist, Joe Minter uses art to tell the story of the history and journey of Africans and African Americans in America. In 1989, he began working on his own sculpture garden, the “African Village in America,” located in Birmingham. Minter feels he is directed by God in this endeavor and creates all of his sculpture from found objects, as he believes that these items contain the spirits of all who have touched them.

Minter was a featured artist in the MMFA exhibition  History Refused to Die in 2015, and his sculptures are part of the permanent collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Smithsonian American Art Museum in D.C., and the High Museum of Art in Atlanta.

Joe Minter, Dedicated to All Those Who Served, n.d., found metal, Lent by the artist
Joe Minter, Lumberjack Without a File, n.d., found metal, Lent by the artist

Art in the Garden: Adam Bodine

Meet the Artist

Adam Bodine brings a sense of humor and fun into his sculpture. Employing salvaged wood and metal, he creates oversize images of toys. Bodine’s use of industrial materials formed into familiar objects allows him to explore themes of play, dreams, building, and learning. What You Say, 2012, conjures up nostalgic ideas of old-fashioned gramophones or brings to mind a more current image; that of a bullhorn, an apparatus used to amplify our voice.

Bodine received his Bachelor of Fine Arts from the University of Alabama, Birmingham, and his Master of Fine Arts from the University of Georgia. He has worked at Sloss Furness in Birmingham and has shown his sculptures around the South.

 

Art in the Garden: Casey Downing, Jr.

Meet the Artist

Mobile-based artist Casey Downing, Jr., works both figuratively and abstractly in a variety of metals.  Circular, an example of his minimal abstract sculptures, incorporates the fluid, graceful forms that evoke movement and controlled energy that is apparent in many of his non-representational works.

Downing received his degree from the University of Alabama in Huntsville, and his art has been featured in exhibitions at the Mobile Museum of Art, the Huntsville Museum of Art, and other venues in the South. In addition to exhibitions, Downing is best known for his permanent public art commissions around the state, which include sculptures sited in Dothan, Huntsville, Mobile, and Montgomery.

Circular (2018)

Casey Downing, Jr., Circular, 2018, stainless steel, Collection of Dr. Paul Maertens, Mobile, Alabama
Photography of installation at the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts

Art in the Garden: Deborah Butterfield

Behind the Work

One of the most prominent American sculptors working today, Deborah Butterfield first began using mud, clay, and sticks to create sculptures in the form of horses in the 1970’s. In 1977, she moved to a ranch in Montana and in 1979 began using scrap metal and found steel. For the past decade, she has been making unique bronze pieces, cast from found wood sticks and pieces, to which she then methodically and expertly applies her patina. Currently, Butterfield splits her time between studios in Montana and Hawaii. In both places, she shares the land with horses (including her dressage horse, Isbelle, the model for this piece), and they continue to inspire her work.

Born and raised in San Diego, Butterfield received her Bachelor of Arts and Master of Fine Arts from the University of California, Davis. Since 1976, she has exhibited extensively around the world, including solo presentations at the Seattle Art Museum in Washington, the Dallas Museum of Art in Texas, the Israel Museum, in Jerusalem, and the San Diego Museum of Art in California. Her work is included in numerous public collections including the Art Institute of Chicago, the Brooklyn Museum, the Smithsonian’s Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Smithsonian American Art Museum, and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, among many others.

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