The Glasswork of Shayna Leib

Before the Rain. Photo by Jaime Young.

Before the Rain. Photo by Jaime Young.

Sirocco. Photo by Jaron Berman.

Sun Rising Over the Tundra. Photo by Jaime Young.

This week I was on the website of Echt Gallery here in Chicago when I stumbled onto these extraordinary glass sculptures by Madison-based artist Shayna Leib. Leib became obsessed with glass at the tender age of 7 when she saw a glassblowing demonstration at a local university, an experience that profoundly changed her life.

Each of the pieces in her Wind and Water takes nearly a month to create and involves a painstaking, multi-step process that begins with pulling individual 30-50 foot segments of glass called cane (imagine making 2400 °F taffy candy), a step that’s repeated 8 to 200 times depending on the scale of the piece. To clarify: she generates over 1 mile of thin glass pieces from which she cuts into tens of thousands of segments organized by shape and length. Next begins the tedious process of building the actual sculpture, requiring roughly 45 minutes for each two square inch area. This all seems practically impossible to me. I get dismayed when confronted with a jumbo-sized bag of carrots.

Penobscot. Photo by Jim Gill.

Moebius. Photo by Tom VanEndye.

Laminar. Photo by Jaime Young.

Laminar. Photo by Jaime Young.

The final pieces resemble flowing grass or perhaps coral reefs that whorl and overflow from one pane to the next. Leib says, “I use glass, not for its mimetic quality to capture the look of stone or plastic, but for its most unique properties; the inclination to flow, the capacity to freeze a moment in time, and its ability to manipulate optics.” If you’re in Chicago you can see her work being featured by Habatat Galleries Michigan November 4-6, 2011 at SOFA on Navy Pier.

If you like this, also check out the works of Nava Lubelski and Amy Eisenfeld Genser.

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