Monday October 22, 2012 | by Jennifer Halvorson

The newly unveiled 2012 Rakow Commission work by Denmark’s Steffen Dam examines the experience of a

Danish artist Steffen Dam unveiled his new work entitled Flower Block, the 2012 Rakow Commission, at the Corning Seminar, which just wrapped up last weekend. It is made up of 24 of Dam’s signature abstract marine figures encased in glass.

During its 2012 annual seminar of glass, The Corning Museum of Glass unveiled the 27th Rakow Commission, an ongoing program to support new investigations in glass art. Steffen Dam of Ebeltoft, Denmark created a monumental work of 24 of his signature abstract marine elements, which he has discovered through experimentation with the reaction between metals and chemicals and glass. Dam is inspired by his grandfathers biology library. The new work measures 11-inches-tall by 23-inches-wide, and is titled simply Flower Block.

A detail from Steffen Dam’s 2012 work Flower Block, all elements relating to the various component parts of a flower.

Steffen Dam’s work encourages endless questions that rarely lead to direct answers, which is an important aspect to the work. This past Friday evening, an interested audience heard Steffen give a lecture about his work, though his focus was not on glass. Instead, Steffen engaged the audience in a story of his own biography, which in turn related to the work he has developed preceding and including Flower Block. The idea behind this work that references all the individual parts of a flower is to use abstraction to get to a higher reality of depiction. Dam says his studies do not attempt to imitate the natural world, but are designed through memory, response to material, and, my personal favorite, “a line of accidents.”

A portrait of the artist Steffen Dam.

Steffen draws from many inspirations of his life, some starting with his studies from his grandfather’s library. Books of biology, natural science, and the history of Denmark have all lead into the creation of his work. Through his education in technical engineering and work as a tool maker, Steffen understands the qualities of various metals, which have filtered into his investigations with glass. Flower Block illuminates a gentle color palette without use of colored glass. Instead, the hues are composed of silver, baking soda, bits of zinc, and layers of carbon. Steffen Dam described his process as “one long line of accidents” and through the chain of experimental observations, numerous slices and joins, he is able to design the intricate studies we now view within his work.

So what is so special about this piece of glass? This is the exact question Dam says he poses to himself with every work that is completed within the Dam and Karlslund Studio. He calls his Rakow Commission work a study between reality and fiction, “neither science, nor Hans Christian Anderson.” As Steffen put it during his lecture, “know what you are doing, but not completely.” With this in mind, work shall continue to create endless questions with no need of any direct answer.

—Jennifer Halvorson

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.