Ruth Reader previews "Facture: Artists at the Forefront of Painterly Glass" (Glass Quarterly)

Jeff Wallin, Investigation on a Prepared Surface, 2008
kilnformed glass, 20 x 29 x 1 inches
Photo: M. Schmitt

With an opening reception this evening, Bullseye Gallery kicks off a month-long celebration of two-dimensional painting on glass in their exhibit, “Facture: Artists at the Forefront of Painterly Glass.” The group exhibition will showcase kilnformed glass paintings (mostly frit on sheet glass) from the artists Kari Minnick, Martha Pfanschmidt, Ted Sawyer, Abi Spring, Jeff Wallin, and Michael Janis.

In a telephone interview, Janis, told the GLASS Quarterly Hot Sheet that glass as a canvas adds texture to a painting’s storyline in a way opaque fabric cannot: “It’s shiny, it’s matte, the finish is so malleable it adds to the story.” Beyond the finish, Janis talks about the role of light and opacity in glass paintings versus their canvas counterparts. He says, “some of [the image] is obscured, some of it’s transparent. My glass panels are 3/4ths of an inch thick. Shadow and depth are something I couldn’t achieve as a painter or collage artist. Even the temperature of the material adds to the narrative. Glass has something that translates, that’s tactile.”

While all of the artists work, for the most part, extensively with glass, their backgrounds differ. Minnick, Pfanschmidt, Wallin, and Spring all studied studio art or painting in college, while Sawyer worked in ceramics until the mid-1990’s. Janis was an architect for 20 years before he finally made the leap into glass making. This variance in background provides an interesting context for “Facture’s” examination of painted glass. The work ranges from excruciatingly detailed images, made by sculpting fine glass powder called ‘frit’ into painfully exact lines on glass panels before firing them in the kiln, to more colorful abstract pieces of layered glass panels.

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January 4, 2012