Thursday August 1, 2019 | by Meghan Hayfield

With clients offering ever-larger spaces, Jennifer and Thor Bueno create expressive stone installations that bring the complexity of the natural world indoors

Jennifer and Thor Bueno, the husband-and-wife team behind Bueno Glass, have been collaborating on large-scale stone sculptures for at least 10 years, and they've been bringing assemblages of these variegated patterns that reference natural geology into the architecture of homes, hospitals, and corporate offices. Their latest installation, entitled Cerulean Streams, is massive in scale and was installed in an unidentified corporate headquarters in Virginia. 

Over the past decade their installations have grown in scale and composition, expanding as the commissions they've won have offered larger scope and environments to work with.“When we started they were self-contained, and now, in larger spaces, we have to adapt to the space,” Jennifer Bueno told the Glass Quarterly Hot Sheet in a telephone interview. “They’re true installations now,” her husband, Thor, added.

courtesy: jennifer bueno

The original sculptures were Zen-inspired, according to the artists, who chose a palette of muted colors and meditative arrangements. However, as the pieces evolved, they have gotten increasingly bold and colorful. Many of the installations now incorporate metallic shades and mirrored elements, altering the character of the environment, and blurring the line between abstract and naturalistic approaches.

“We started out with the goal of making natural rocks with muted colors, then we allowed it to grow brighter,” Jennifer said. “We allowed the palette to become otherworldly, like from another planet.”

The mirror elements are eye-catching and add unexpected details to sculptures that appear simple at first glance. In addition, the shape and gesture of the individual stones and their layout alongside one another evokes a nature formation, evoking how stones may be arranged at the bottom of a river bed.

“The pieces undulate like a river, then you have to stop and engage with it,” Thor said.

As Thor and Jennifer live nearly alongside a river in the mountains of North Carolina, their immersion in their natural environment rubs off on their work. The sculptures are innately a description of what they see on a daily basis, while embracing abstraction and spontaneous glassblowing.

courtesy: jennifer bueno

The movement captured by the installations paired with the almost-hypnotic abstractions of stones propels the design. While the design of the stones along walls is carefully planned and thought-out, the stones themselves are created much more freely.

“On a technical level the stone pieces suit my glassblowing technique: I tend to work fast and spontaneous,” Thor said. “We make a lot of stones but none are identical, which is on purpose.”

Earlier in Thor’s career, he was part of the B Team, a NYC-based performance art group that brought experimental and edgy glassblowing spectacles to audiences. This aggressive style of glassblowing has not faded, and Thor brings it now to create stones with stochastic and unplanned expression. Like nature, each stone is created unconstrained and unconsciously.

“One of my mantras on the B team was planned spontaneity,” he said. “Each object I make has a moment of truth in it, it has to come fluidly, there’s no time to plan a reaction.”

Jennifer, however, works carefully with the composition of the installations, hanging the stones strategically to fit each individual space. The design of the stones along walls in offices and hospitals creates movement and evokes fluidity, just as the stones do themselves.

courtesy: jennifer bueno

While Thor and Jennifer work on the sculptures together, their work routines differ vastly.

“I like to be slow, still and concentrate whereas Thor wants to do everything all at once,” she said. “It’s shocking that we have such different approaches but we work together.”

The stones themselves have a performative streak, Jennifer speculates.

“They have a performative aspect in the spaces because they lead from one place to another in an active way,” she said. “They are flowing from end to end, it draws you there, this motion following the trail.”

This immersive element is integral to “inject[ing] calm into those stressful atmospheres,” Thor added. The stones bring a natural connection to the architecture, and allows viewers to interact with the volume of the stones in the space.

“It triggers memory for a lot of people,” Jennifer said. “The work is really soothing, and quiet. It’s not like a landscape, you enter nature on an abstract level."

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.