by Andrew Page
Much of the vast metaphoric potential of glass is intrinsic to the material—from its well-known fragility to its surprising structural strength; from its talent for disappearing to its weighty yet pellucid presence in massive castings. Just consider the technical name for the material’s unstable molecular state—“amorphous solid”—and how it speaks to the intersectionality of glass, as well as its potency as a symbol of transformation. The multiple and sometimes contradictory natures of the material are the subject of much of the artwork covered in this magazine, but in this issue we give special attention to the ways glass dances with light and color.
What we are actually talking about when we discuss hue and illumination is the reflection (or emission) of electromagnetic energy, which our brains perceive as fire-engine red or cool indigo depending on the frequency and wavelength picked up by our retinas. Our brains make sense of the signals traveling to it via the optic nerve, and that’s how we “see” color. But in fact, this is not a material property itself, but rather a product of our brain’s processing of information, hence the condition of color-blindness in some people.
In this issue, contributing editor William Ganis engages the masterful manipulation of diffuse colored light in Jiyong Lee’s cast and laminated segmented sculptures, which are meditations on the structure of cells, and ethereal with multiple levels of meaning.
Contributing editor Emma Park discusses the outsize influence Václav Cigler has had on Slovakian glass, which he helped to established when he moved to Bratislava to teach outside of his hometown Prague, where the influence of Stanislav Libenský and Jaroslava Brychtová would have been an obstacle to his pure geometric studies of optical crystal, an approach that has informed generations of Slovak artists who would follow his unique approach.
Our Montreal correspondent Christian Lewis examines Quebecois artist Zou Desbiens’s infatuation with glass as a mediator of light, and charts her practice blending antiquated photographic techniques with her innovative hand-poured lenses in chromatically muted works rich in pattern and optical intensity.
And finally, in this issue’s cover article, we celebrate a lifetime of discovery in the lengthy career of Paul Stankard, who has single-handedly moved the American paperweight from an imitation of the classic French paperweights of the mid-19th century, to groundbreaking work that sets the standard for botanical fidelity around the world. Stankard shared that he had been contacted by a French glassworker for a legendary crystal company, and heard how it’s now the Europeans who are studying the American paperweight for inspiration and ideas, the turnabout a testament to Stankard’s achievement, which we celebrate on the occasion of his 80th birthday.