Thursday August 31, 2023 | by Andrew Page

HOT OFF THE PRESSES: The Fall 2023 edition of Glass (#172)

You could be forgiven if you didn't immediately think "Paul Stankard" when viewing the close-up of sinewy human bodies intertwined with flower blossoms, mossy grasses, and seed pods on the cover of the Fall 2023 edition of Glass: The UrbanGlass Art Quarterly. Stankard is well-known for his lush floral arrangements encased in glass, detailed depictions that accurately capture the organic complexity of their delicate beauty. 

In his more-than-half-century career Stankard has single-handedly taken the floral paperweight beyond the stylized depictions of flowers in the 19th century European paperweights, and toward a much more realistic presentation. But it's the literal and figurative underside where Stankard has pushed the subject matter of the form, with more freedom to riff of themes of fertility and sexuality in his sculpted underground world. It was in in the late 1970s, when he discovered he could join two elements -- one of the above-ground flowers, and a second of underground root systems -- that he redefined and expanded the form and the subject matter of the paperweight. On the occasion of Stankard's 80th birthday, we offer a detailed examination of his career, impact, and assured legacy as a game-changer for glass art.

Jiyong Lee's photography is impeccable, as befits an artist whose precise modulations of light are the subject matter of his work. However, contributing editor William V. Ganis bemoans the ravishing images included in the article -- saying as good as they are, nothing two-dimensional can approach the ethereal effect of gazing at the actual work, and moving around it to appreciate how alive it is with glowing light and color, meditations on the mysteries of cellular biology, but also a deep appreciation for the mysteries of life.

Speaking of light, Quebecois artist Zou Desbiens is devoted to the myriad ways glass interacts with luminescence -- and uses ladled glass to make lenses that distort and intensify images and illumination. She also embraces light in photography, resuscitating antiquated techniques on glass plates for her visual journeys of pattern and arrays of light.

And finally, our London-based contributing editor Emma Park takes apart the differences between Slovakian and Czech glass art, which one could be forgiven for conflating as, after all, Czechoslovakia was one country for most of the 20th century. But both countries rushed to declare their independence as soon as the Soviet political structure collapsed in the 1990s, and understanding the distinction is critical. Park explains how Czech native Vaclav Cigler moved to neighboring Slovakia to run the glass program in Bratislava, and the distance gave him freedom from the outsized influence of Stanislav Libensky, who was the longtime head of glass at the Art Academy in Prague, and whose more figurative and chromatically rich approach is the polar opposite of Cigler's optically pure and geometrically abstract approach that would go on to influence generations of glass artists from Slovakia. 

All this plus four reviews of the most important exhibitions of 2023, the latest news from the international world of glass, and a back-page essay on glass in film and literature as an untapped area glass artists might want to mine for their richness in the cultural consciousness.

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Glass: The UrbanGlass Quarterly, a glossy art magazine published four times a year by UrbanGlass has provided a critical context to the most important artwork being done in the medium of glass for more than 40 years.