Mary Ann “Toots” Zynsky is one of many American artists who have become enchanted with the expressive potential of glass in the past three decades- an era in which Dale Chihuly, William Morris, Paul Stankard, Dante Marioni, Sonja Blomdahl and others have transformed their passion for this unique material into an international phenomenon. While glass containers and vessels have been made for more than 2,000 years, today’s artists take traditional forms, like bowls and vases to a high level of individual expression. They create sculpture of intricate shape, texture and subject matter, working glass with varied techniques and combining it with an array of other media in surprisingly new and beautiful ways.
In the nineteenth century, master glass-makers like Louis Comfort Tiffany ran large factories employing scores of workers to craft original designs into finished pieces. In the 1960s, The American Studio Glass movement transformed glass from craft into fine art. Harvey Littleton and others created small-scale furnaces that gave artists the new ability to work hot glass individually in their studios. Littleton went on to found the first glass program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1962. From there, a wave of artists emerged who spread the aesthetic possibilities of glass worldwide. Marvin Lipofsky, the first to earn an MFA in glass at the University of Wisconsin, founded the Nation’s second glass program at the University of California, Berkeley. Another MFA graduate, Dale Chihuly went on to establish the glass department at the Rhode Island School of Design, and co-founded the famed and highly influential Pilchuck Glass School near Seattle. Today, more than 40 years later, Chihuly is a household name, and he and many others have achieved national and worldwide recognition for their contributions to the art of American Studio Glass.
Two galleries in the Davidson Wing provide the Museum a showcase for its outstanding holding of American Studio Glass. The collection was initiated in 1995 with the purchase of Cam Langley’s Three Flower Vase, and has grown to nearly four-dozen pieces. Several of the movement’s icons are represented in the collection, as well as nationally and regionally significant voices. The Collection encompasses a wide range of different techniques, including blowing, flame working, casting, and carving. Also included are works combining glass with other materials such as wood, rope, paint, gold and silver leaf, and manipulated imagery. The Museum is pleased to highlight the creativity and variety of the American Studio Glass movement with this exhibit.