From Chihuly to Tagliapietra, glass has long had a storied history in the Pacific Northwest. That the Bellevue Museum in Washington will be devoting the last in its series of materials-based biennials to the medium is a fitting finale for the fifth iteration. The museum's juried exhibition has been occurring every two years, and offers a curated platform for regional, established and up-and-coming voices in art, craft, and design. On the heels of past shows on clay, fiber, wood, and metal, this fall's 2018 "Glasstastic Biennale" will celebrate the medium perhaps closest to Seattle’s heart. As executive director and chief curator of BAM Benedict Heywood stated in an exhibition announcement: “With Seattle being the undisputed center for the development of glass as an art form in North America, it was natural that this medium should have been selected to culminate the Museum's series of media-based biennials...The simplicity of its composition, the complexity of its production, the many forms it can take—blown, cast, frit, stained—as well as its many uses, from the stained-glass of a medieval cathedral to the modernist skyscraper, from the Venetian goblet to the IKEA tealight, attest to the fact that glass is a paradoxical material, that has inspired the artists of the Northwest for generations."
From November 9th, 2018 to April 14th, 2019, the Bellevue will be exhibiting works by 48 artists. In a telephone interview with the Glass Quarterly Hot Sheet, Heywood noted that the artists were selected through a rigorous process in which jurors looked for “work that was advancing the argument in terms of working with glass, and not only innovating in terms of material but also in terms of conceptual content.” The Museum sought to showcase the “full of panoply of work in the medium of glass,” seeking out “the widest possible representation of glass work in this area.” (Disclosure: Andrew Page, who edits the Glass Quarterly Hot Sheet was on the jury of five who selected the works)
Commenting on the strong tradition of glass-art in the region, Mr. Heywood notes that the Northwest offers an unusual wealth of opportunities for glass artists to develop their practice, with unparalleled access to material, studio time, and expertise. With so many other opportunities in the area to display glass art, however, there has been a challenge to try to work out something new and unique to set apart the Bellevue’s offerings.
Part of the solution lies in architecture. Heywood describes the Bellevue as an “extraordinary building with many theatrical spaces” — a unique quality he sees as a “huge advantage.” As a recent appointee to his current position, having come on only last fall, he counts the hope to “foster dialogue between installations and the architecture of the Museum” as one of his major aims during his tenure. For the current exhibit, this dialogue has been particularly absorbing considering that “architecture has an intimate relationship with glass.” Heywood remarked that it had been both challenging and rewarding to work with each artist to display their works and explore “how [the artworks] interacted with demanding gallery spaces.”
A second distinctive feature is the Museum’s inclusivity of the range and intersections of art, craft, and design. Heywood stressed that the Bellevue’s audience is not a particularist but a generalist one, and that curators plan to present their offerings accordingly. The Museum’s concern is not with making a point of distinguishing art versus craft or design, but rather simply providing “authentic, exciting experiences to the audience.” In regards to glass, Heywood finds a duality in its use and perception. While suggesting that technical achievement in glass is valuable in itself, he also spoke of hoping to see “greater development of glass as an actionable material for art-making, and not necessarily solely a studio material.” And if there’s one thing he’d like visitors to learn from this exhibit, it’s that glass is “a legitimate weapon in the armory of artists to deploy the artwork they want to create.”
Going forwards, the Museum hopes to continue its relationships with glass artists, although its attention will be turned toward representing individual makers rather than group show activities. From Heywood: “The use of glass is incredibly important in this region and we will continue to engage in it as much as possible.”
Following is a list of all 48 artists participating in the "Glasstastic" exhibition: Fumi Amano, Jimmy Anderegg, Karen Buhler, David Chatt, Bri Chesler, Benjamin Cobb, Julie Conway, Emily Counts, Erin Dengerink, Mark Ditzler, Gabe Feenan, David Francis, Dan Friday, Terri Grant, KT Hancock, Keiko Hara, Carolyn Hopkins, David Huchthausen, Etsuko Ichikawa, Carrie Iverson, John Kiley, Steve Klein, Morgan Madison, Amanda Manitach, Dante Marioni, Amanda McDonald-Stern, Katie Miller, Carol Milne, Janis Miltenberger, Melissa Misoda, Anna Mlasowsky, Shelley Muzylowski-Allen, Emily Nachison, Karsten Oaks, Jenny Pohlman & Sabrina Knowles, Kait Rhoads, Joseph Rossano & Martin Blank, Nathan Sandberg, Heidi Schwegler, Ethan Stern, April Surgent, Lino Tagliapietra, Kathryn Thibault, Cappy Thompson, Michael Tyka, Dick Weiss Erich Woll, Mark Zirpel.
*Images are a representative of the kinds of work to be shown in the exhibition rather than being necessarily the literal works in the show.
IF YOU GO:
November 9th, 2018 - April 14th, 2019
Bellevue Arts Museum
510 Bellevue Way NE
Bellevue, Washington 98004