Glass Art Out Of The Past, Into The Present

Oh, art. When browsing contemporary art gallery websites, it’s likely that you will see work in a variety of different mediums. Where once artists often worked in traditional mediums like painting and sculpture — sculpture then being divided into everything from clay to marble and even bronze — contemporary artists aim to push the boundaries. Art gallery websites often feature works that perhaps wouldn’t be considered “art” by some in the traditional sense. But connoisseurs looking to buy modern art know that further artists push themselves, the more impressive — and perhaps valuable — their work becomes. Sometimes, being cutting edge doesn’t mean creating an entirely new form of art, but revitalizing old techniques. This strength can been seen in particular among today’s glass artists. Though blown glass sculpture is an art form that is centuries old, glass artists today employ unique styles and techniques that create works that are nothing like traditionalist pieces. It’s not only beautiful but thought-provoking. Many art buyers today are browsing art gallery websites for glasswork, due to its increasing value in the art market and its enduring, attention-grabbing qualities. Below, we’ll look into the different techniques and history that has led to today’s glass artists becoming who they are today — as well as who is breaking ground in the contemporary art world.

Glass Art: A Brief History

Glass art has a long history that is diverse, stretching across the world. Originally, the invention of glassblowing was established in the Roman Empire, around the 1st Century BCE, which led to the spread and dominance of this growing technology. In medieval Europe, cathedrals were often decorated with stained glass windows depicting Biblical scenes. This tradition continues to this day, with stained glass windows now being prized not only in churches but in secular buildings as well. Glassblowing techniques became remarkably popular in Italy, particularly on the island of Murano. Murano glassblowers are famed for their styles, and in particular the glass fish they create. Of course, it takes decades for a Murano glass artist to become a master. Studio glass art is a bit different from traditional glassblowing. The movement towards studio glass art began in 1962, when Harvey Littleton, a ceramics professor and Dominick Labino, a chemist and engineer held two workshops in the Toledo Museum of Art. They began experimenting with melting glass in a furnace and creating blown glass art.

Creating Glass Art: Techniques

There are two different main techniques of glass-blowing — though glassblowing is not necessarily the only way through which glass art is made. The two main techniques are free-blowing and mold-blowing. Free-blowing involves blowing glass at the end of a long tube, creating a bubble that can be worked into different shapes. Mold-blowing involves blowing an amount of hot glass into a mold, which manipulates the shape as the glass is being blown. In order for glass to be manipulated, it has to be heated to a certain temperature — usually, this takes place at around 2,400 degrees Fahrenheit. Today, 70 to 74% of the weight of modern glass is made up of pure silica. 90% of the glass used by modern glass artists is enriched with lime.

Glass Today: Notable Artists

There are many notable glass artists today, with the art form growing in America. Perhaps the most famous glass artist today is the American Dale Chihuly. His works are made on a large scale, and are often representative of the environment. Notably, Chihuly studied in Murano, as well as other parts of Italy including Florence. Karen Lamonte is also particularly notable, as glass is a difficult profession for women to break into. Lamonte works not only with cast glass but ceramic and bronze, and is known for life-size sculptures and large scale monotype prints. Ginny Ruffner is also a prominent artist who uses glass in a lampworking context. Many glass artists are now embracing art gallery websites, from which 71% of art collectors have purchased art in some form.

I’m Allison Febrey, editor of Art Magazine Online. After a few years too long in the cut-throat, competitive world of the New York City publishing industry, I decided to follow my passion and create an online magazine for modern artists around the world. This is a community site, if you’re an artist or just an art admirer, feel free to join the discussion!

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