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Thursday July 23, 2020 | by Gabriella Sanderson

CONVERSATION: Glass-based performance artist and innovator Anna Mlasowsky on starting a new gallery for emerging artists

A native of Germany, Anna Mlasowsky is an artist, innovator, and newly-minted gallerist who currently resides in the Seattle area. Since the pandemic, she's been faced with new visa requirements and travel bans on the one hand, and the postponement of scheduled residencies and exhibitions on the other. In response to these setbacks, delays, and uncertainties, Mlasowsky has devoted herself to transforming her residence into a gallery space to support emerging artists who are gravely under-represented in the art world, and immigrant artists whose status is made precarious by the pandemic. Via telephone, the Glass Quarterly Hot Sheet recently had the opportunity to interview Mlasowsky about her recent projects, her ongoing experiments in glass processes, and her new gallery space.

4 Feet Apart (video still), 2020. Mixed media. 20 min. video. courtesy: the artist

Born in East Germany, and with degrees from art programs in Denmark and the U.S., Mlasowsky incorporates both performance and experimental glass techniques into her practice. Her most recent project, 4 Feet Apart (2020) is a 20-minute film she created with Lilia Ossiek and Alba Maria Thomas Alvarez, which was recently featured in the "Future Film Fest" virtual program at North Lands Creative. “Sometimes we have to break what connects us in order to find together,” says Mlasowsky. The performance creates narratives between the dancers and her glass objects, which take over the roles of characters. The dancers are separated by multiple seemingly stretched-out glass rods connected to their backs. As they attempt to interact, the glass moves and breaks until the dancers are free to embrace. A sense of grace and peace that follows the breakage provokes the audience to reflect on the boundaries that separate us from one another. This is the perfect video to watch during these times of quarantine.

The Tower, 2015. collection: costello sforzesco

In a Spring 2014 residency at the Bullseye Bay Area Research Center, Mlasowsky developed revolutionary and experimental research techniques for molding pâte de verre. The Glass Art Society's TAG grant and collaborations with Corning scientists during a specialty glass residency there were also critical to the development and refinement of the process. While experimenting with black enamel to create inkblot patterns, she spilled a jar, and, cleaning up with a paper towel, she was reminded of the ceramic method of casting organic material with slip-casting clay by firing the objects and watching the organic material burn away. She set about translating her idea into molding with glass. The moldable pastes that resulted from her process allowed her to create complex forms and structures that had never been realized in quite the same way before. The binders are a combination of many different materials in order to create the distinctive glass paste. One paste can function as a glue, another is spreadable, and one behaves like clay and can be molded into objects.

Different processes such as hot-working, or using a bullet-proof specialty glass, have been employed to create the provocative forms seen in her performance works where the objects create a dialogue with the actors. Mlasowsky's research into new techniques and new ways of using glass materials reflects her strong curiosity and forward-thinking attitude illustrated in her art work today.

As a performance and glass artist, she is consistently breaking boundaries on narratives of interactions between objects and actors. An example is the recurring cloak seen in Chorus of One (2016-2018) and Noon (2016-2019). The cloak is made from Rhino glass which is a specialty glass developed for the military to be bullet-proof and shatter-resistant. She continues to teach her methods during her residencies and teaching positions. 

Chorus of One. 2016-2018. Rhino Glass-Ceramic, fabric, body. courtesy: anna mlasowsky

With studios and borders closed, Mlasowsky had to postpone many of her upcoming shows and residencies including her residency at the Museum of Glass in Tacoma. Originally, she was supposed to fly to Canberra, Australia, for a six-week residency at the Canberra Glassworks to create work for an Australian traveling exhibition, “Upending Expectations,” after her Spring 2020 visiting-artist residency at UrbanGlass. Due to the pandemic, she returned to Seattle instead, where she has been supporting emerging artists with the development of her new gallery space and internship program.

Mlasowsky serves as a role model for her female interns who work with her and live out of her home. She feels this is not the right time to go on with “business as usual” but to instead be part of a more fulfilling venture by generating content and providing a platform for other artists who have valuable voices to be heard.

Mlasowsky's artist run-experimental exhibition space in Seattle is named DAS SCHAUFENSTER ("the shop window" in English), and the idea of “window shopping” has special relevance in this time of social distancing with the exhibition on view in the shop windows 24/7. Located across from a park, she renovated the street-level space of her residence into a gallery that will focus on sculpture, installation, and performance. The fulfillment of a longtime dream, Mlasowsky feels the time has come to realize a space where artists can have their shows that may have been cancelled elsewhere. She sees it as a place artists whose promising careers have been put on hold can find an audience and community. The first exhibition, “An Apology to Elephants” with Brazilian artist Anna Parisi is on view through August 13, 2020. Upcoming exhibitions will show works from Corey Pemberton and Connor Walden. For more information follow DAS SCHAUFENSTER on Instagram: @das.schaufenster.

Mlasowsky is also represented by the Vetri Gallery in Seattle, Washington. She holds a BA in Glass from the Royal Danish Academy (2011) and an MFA in sculpture from the University of Washington (2016). Her next solo show, "Never Odd or Even," will open at the Bellevue Arts Museum on September 11th and run through January 17, 2020, and her work is in the permanent collections of The Corning Museum of Glass, The Seto City Art Museum, the European Museum for Modern Glass Art (Kunstsammlungen der Veste Coburg, Germany), the Toyama City Museum of Glass, and in a Public Art Installation at Bornholm Regional Hospital in Denmark.

IF YOU GO: 

Anna Parisi
“An Apology to Elephants”
Through August 13, 2020

DAS SCHAUFENSTER
6019 NW 14th Avenue
Seattle

Instagram: @das.schaufenster

Website

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.