Issue 174 | Spring

Editor's Letter

by Andrew Page

Working with glass can be hot, heavy, and dangerous, and yet at the heart of almost every silica-based endeavor is a potential for whimsy. Blame the unpredictable nature of glass, its plasticity, or its fluidity, but the starting point of any glass project is an infinity of possible outcomes. This near-ridiculous potential to become anything at all brings out a distinctly capricious side. In this issue, different kinds of playfulness are at work in every feature article.

Even though the Blaschka invertebrates on the cover were made as objects for serious study, and relied upon by university students eager to understand the creatures in the sea, the Blaschkas were not divers themselves, and thus, as the article’s author and experienced scuba diver William Warmus points out, had to imagine how the examples pulled from the deep would have appeared far below the surface. One of the Blaschkas’ many miraculous gifts as flameworkers was their ability to imbue the creatures they duplicated, be they flowers or sea creatures, with convincingly lifelike qualities. This flowed from their creative ability to speculate on what organic forms would look like in their natural habitat, which took as much imagination as formal examination. In this way, these serious objects are fueled, in part, by artistic flights of fancy.

To a much greater degree, imagination is the source of contemporary artist Kimberly Thomas's inspiration for her striking assemblages of flameworked elements. Like magical storybook scenes, her works are the product of the artist’s disparate strands of career history in special effects, pipemaking, and ceramics, all coming together to create absolutely original works in glass that look like they could be made from metal, clay, or anything but silica. Endless experimentation into surface textures has allowed Thomas to achieve a mix of the believable and fantastical that, as author Kinshasa Peterson observes, become invitations to fly away from the everyday into a richer world.

Alabama-born Stephen Rolfe Powell (1951-2019) was known for his outlandish blown-glass vessels, festooned with riots of colorful murrine that were as dazzling as the artist’s charismatic personality when he inspired people to follow an ambitious idea and make it happen. Contributing editor William Ganis looks at the expansive legacy of Powell that lives on in his longtime home of Danville, Kentucky, where everything from a new museum to multiple public art projects keep alive Rolfe’s fantastical vision of what is possible.

And rounding out the features, there’s Dick Marquis’s unmatched virtuosity in murrine, which he applied to outlandish forms of his own invention. There’s almost an inverse relationship between the delicacy and difficulty in Marquis’s achievements and the fanciful forms he created, such as wizard hats, toy race cars, and yes, teapots with spouts that hearken back to the Middle Ages, or, for those who prefer pop culture, to Disney’s animation in Beauty and the Beast. Marquis’s works wear whimsy like a disguise, as if to keep the work from becoming overly fussy as he plays with glass form and surface, bringing his unique brand of subversive humor to the party.


In memoriam: Sheldon Palley dies at the age of 90, leaving a remarkable legacy of arts philanthropy, which he pursued in partnership with his wife, Myrna; Helen Lee named 2024 United States Artist Fellow, receives a $50,000 unrestricted award; curator Jabari Owens-Bailey on his exhibition “A Two-Way Mirror” at the Tacoma Museum of Glass; Phase 1 of the Corning Studio renovation opens to the public, with new facilities and resources for education and the general public; the Barry Art Museum in Norfolk, Virginia, will double in size thanks to longtime friendship between art-collecting families; Chihuly’s first Australian botanical garden installation set to open in 2024.


Danny Lane in London; group exhibition in London; Jean-Michel Othoniel at Perrotin Gallery, New York City; Kea Tawana at the John Michael Kohler Arts Center, Sheboygan, Wisconsin

UrbanGlass News

A letter from interim executive director Abram Deslauriers

UrbanGlass Catalogue

Alissa Eberle’s Electric Caverns in the Agnes Varis Art Center’s Window Gallery


by Emma Park

At a Swiss Alpine museum and art center, a group of artists, curators, and scholars debated the history and uncertain future of European glass.



by William Warmus

A maritime museum may be the perfect venue to contemplate the classification and meaning of the 19th-century Blaschka invertebrate models in our contemporary moment.

The Outlier

by Andrew Page

In his at times hermetic practice, Richard “Dick” Marquis hatches wildly inventive glass forms through virtuosic and fearless technical experimentation, wielding whimsy like camouflage for his extreme level of skill.

Legacy Assured

by William V. Ganis

With a new museum built around his personal collection, Stephen Rolfe Powell is celebrated in and around his longtime home in Danville, Kentucky, through public displays of his uniquely flamboyant artworks, a testament to his powerful dynamism.

Ticket to RIde

by Kinshasa Peterson

Kimberly Thomas’s fantastical assemblages—which bring together Hollywood special-effects skills, pipe-making aesthetics, and a RISD degree in ceramics—are invitations to escape the everyday.

Moving On

by Andrew Page

Retiring from teaching at the close of the Spring 2024 semester, Gene Koss looks back at the Tulane University glass program he built over the past half-century.

Tracing the Line

by John Luebtow

In an exclusive excerpt from John Luebtow’s just-published book, Glass: A Lifetime of Creating, the artist offers an exuberant catalog of life lessons from a prolific career in glass

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.