by Andrew Page
In these pages, we’ve been closely watching the Covid-19 pandemic and its fallout since it first wreaked its havoc almost exactly one year ago. From canceled conferences and exhibitions, to the shift to virtual classes and residencies, countless art events and education have been derailed and disrupted. Though the numbers of cases remain disturbingly high, and emerging virus variants are being watched closely, the vaccine rollout appears to be steadily bringing the numbers of new cases lower, and we can, for the first time, dare to hope that we are seeing a return to something like normality.
This is welcome news for everyone on the planet, but especially artists, who have seen their livelihood and careers put on hold—that is, if they were able to make it through the shutdowns and closures with their practices intact. We all have much work to do to get back on track.
All the upheaval has had some silver linings—including a new awareness of the need for all areas of society to become more equitable. Historically a rarefied pursuit, the glass world is beginning that process, and the wide variety of free virtual programming that accompanied the pandemic may have opened a somewhat closed ecosystem to a wider range of viewers, who are bringing their own perspectives. This issue takes a look at some of the variety of practitioners who are taking the material in new directions.
In these pages, we invite you to learn about Jing Li, a Chinese artist who earned his MFA in the United States, and who has remained a connector between cultures. Gerry King profiles Li and his development from a student of art history and theory to becoming a highly skilled and versatile artist in glass, thanks in part to his diverse educational experiences.
Our European correspondent Emma Park looks at the remarkable career of Chris Day, a relative newcomer to glass who turned his decades of experience as a tradesman to expressing his search for identity and history in poignant glass sculptures.
Curator Rebecca McNamara looks at the cross-cultural work of Marie Watt, a contemporary artist of Native American and European heritage who references ancient Creation myths in her vintage Venetian glass beaded wall hangings.
Among the new voices in this issue is Victoria Ahmadizadeh Melendez, who shares her journey of discovery of neon and its many adherents, covering museums devoted to preserving vintage signage to the artists cutting through the visual clutter of our digital age with the unique glowing power of neon light.
All of this plus five reviews, the latest news, and a Reflection essay on how the explosion of digital content will not go anywhere once the pandemic is over. Contributing editor and art history professor William Ganis explains what this will mean for a field already in transition.