By Elijah Ogbomo, Summer 2022 Education Intern
On July 27, 2022 I interviewed Deborah Czeresko, an amazing glass artist inspired by her personal experiences and the complexities of modern day political and social ideas. Seeing the potential in glass as a raw material, she creates something beautiful. Through creating she is passionate about addressing the challenges of social norms and queer issues, while also understanding herself and who she is. During our interview, we had a deep conversation about her life, her growth, perspective on society and the way we live; dealing with the pros and cons of social civility.
Where was your birth place, how was it growing up and did it make you who you are today?
Born in New Jersey, it definitely influenced me a lot. Being there and at a young age I was very aware that my place at home was not the life for me. I think children have this consciousness that they can't express themselves. I felt at a young age I didn't have the language to express myself, then I did as an adult. It’s like having the ability to do that. So I wish I could go back to my childhood and have new parents so I would be encouraged to talk more verbally because in my situation I was taught to not speak.
Was it difficult for you being in school, having the perspective of being silent rather than being outspoken?
Definitely, like now it’s the time where I can show up and truly be myself unless people are rude or violent towards me, but I don't care what people say about me because I receive positive feedback for the representation I contribute to in opening that door for others to be themselves. It allowed me to have an abundance for myself mentality. With that I wanted that abundance for myself mentally and creativity because life is a beautiful thing that is powerful and we need to be humble to that power and its state of gratitude.
Being from the 60’s and living through the decades, did some issues and opinions change your view on things? Was there any inspiration from those decades you experienced going into your artwork?
There were things that motivated me that were from formative people in my life who were radical in their way of thinking, and just to see my generation of injustices take place during my time when I was your age dealing with the issues like the AIDS crisis etc.
Why do you put political and social issues into your artwork?
I have been reading more and trying to find philosophies and more radical points of views. Some of the examples of the books I read were Adrienne Maree Brown’s Pleasure Activism and opening up to Afrofutursim with Octavia Butler's writings. These writings are very inspirational to me because it opened me up to trying to find philosophies as a queer person. iIt fuels me 100% percent. Also my generation, especially being a lesbian, it was amazing for me to have someone to look up to back in the day because there weren’t a lot of people who took a stand on having that freedom of being open. It was like counterculture.
Did you have any other artistic skills before eventually doing glassmaking?
I am studying poetry, graphic design and psychology.
What was the shift from doing other artistic stuff to glassblower?
It became a physical opportunity doing glassblowing because I felt an essence run through my body acknowledging having things being stripped away from you in doing what you want and enjoying yourself.
Did the thought of glassblowing just pop in your head, or did you see the concept of glassblowing somewhere else?
Glassblowing was like an “aha” moment for me when I saw it. I felt mystified by the glass itself. It felt spiritual to me just looking at the glass move and shape because it was attracting her curiosity.
From your time traveling from place to place teaching people about the material we use in society to create something useful and beautiful, and for social outreach, how did it make you feel?
I liked to connect with people before becoming a minor celebrity. It's like it’s an interchange of having ideas and thinking of what my teaching style is going to be, seeing what’s inside people’s heads and what they’re thinking about right in front of you. With that it's a mutual teaching, or a mutual exchange. So I refer to it as not a hierarchy but as being a teacher on a pedestal.
If a person was being introduced to glassmaking for the first time, what would be the first thing you show that person, or the advice you would give?
Well, I would try and make them fall in love with glass the way I did. Like I would have a big blob of glass falling on the floor or something like that.
UrbanGlass’ Agnes Varis Art Center is open Tuesday through Sunday from 11:30am - 7:30pm, presenting public exhibitions of contemporary glass art alongside the UrbanGlass|ware store. Visit us to see Deborah Czeresko’s work in-person, or check out our website to learn more about upcoming programs!