Thursday March 1, 2018 | by Valerie Hughes

OPENING: Martin Janecký unveils new Mexican-inspired works at Heller Gallery tonight

Czech artist Martin Janecký is known for his groundbreaking techniques of sculpting inside the bubble, creating highly realistic heads at life-sized scale by hot-working the glass on the pipe in innovative ways. Introduced to glass at the age of 13 by his father, Janecký’s unique approach to the material has made him a sought-after instructor. He's taught and exhibited at the Pilchuck Glass School in Washington State, at UrbanGlass (which publishes the Hot Sheet) in New York City, the Rietveld Academy in Holland, and many others. In the cover article of the Summer 2016 print edition (Glass #143), contributing editor John Drury discussed how Janecký was inspired by the head studies of Bavarian sculptor Franz Xaver Messerschmidt (1736-1783). In it, Drury notes Janecký’s “increasingly naturalistic direction.” Today, that naturalism continues in the Heller Gallery’s upcoming exhibition by Janecký entitled "Dia de Muertos." However, whereas his past works focused on human heads, his newest exhibition focuses on the human skull and its role in the Mexican holiday Day of the Dead. The exhibition will run for the entirety of March and Janecký will be present for tonight's March 1, 2018 opening from 6 PM -8 PM. (Originally, the exhibit was meant to open in Mexico City in the fall of 2017 but it was cancelled due to last year’s earthquake.)

Janecký was inspired by a 2013 visit to Mexico when he was not only amazed by but invited to join the Day of the Dead celebrations. The holiday originates from Mexico and takes place in the beginning of November. Families’ deceased relatives are honored and celebrated with food, parties, and activities that the dead appreciated in life. The dead are a part of their communities once more, awakened to be with their living relatives. Skulls, or calaveras, are prevalent symbols in the holiday and appear in candies, dolls, and parades. Following his trip, Janecký was humbled by “the willingness of Mexican people to share this occasion with an outsider like me,” he said in a prepared statement. He sought to honor and celebrate the amazing holiday.

Taking on the iconography of a culture not your own can be a controversial artistic direction. To further understand artists who embrace different cultures and the line between cultural appreciation and cultural appropriation, the Hot Sheet reached out to Einar and Jamex de la Torre, a pair of brothers who create vibrant and bold glass art that borrows freely from folk art, religious iconography and pop culture, blending their joint Mexican and American cultures. They both studied at California State University at Long Beach. Jamex started lampworking glass in 1977 and earned a BFA in Sculpture in 1983. Einar started working with glass in 1980.

In a statement, they clarified that they were not speaking about Janecký's work in particular, since they hadn't seen it, but offered this: culture is dynamic and it is “an organic magnet that appropriates whatever it wants.” Cultural appropriation “should go through the lenses of interpretation.” In other words, when an artist finds inspiration in another culture, they must make it their own. A piece of their soul must be featured in that work to make it wholly original, rather than copying and pasting an idea. Humanity is influenced by its history and can change because of it. In art, others’ histories or cultures can be used to create something new.

Janecký created works that honor his experience of the Day of the Dead. In 2017, he was one of the Corning Museum of Glass’s Artists-in-Residence and used his time there to work on his "Dia de Muertos" series. Of making the project, Janecký says, “I do so with humility and a huge respect for Mexico’s history and culture.”


Martin Janecký
“Dia de Muertos”
March 1, 2018 - March 31, 2018
Opening Reception: Thursday, March 1, 6 PM - 8 PM
Heller Gallery
303 10th Avenue
New York, NY 10001

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 35 years.