with glass sculpture
“I have always viewed the body as a transitory object,” writes artist Christina Bothwell. From human-animal hybrids to pregnant creatures to figures fused together, Bothwell’s oeuvre suspends various life forms in states of flux: a baby precariously rests on a mother’s back, a young girl grasps onto another’s legs, and others peer into the distance as if they’re about to move forward.
The artist’s subject matter is rooted in the ethereal and embodies the delicate ways spirits and physical figures change over time. Her process, however, mirrors that focus on transformation. From her studio in rural Pennsylvania, Bothwell begins each multi-media piece with a sketch before translating the head into a clay form. To create the weathered appearance, she utilizes pit firing, which involves covering the sculpture with hay or leaves and burning them. The smoke from the fire leaves behind a carbon residue on the clay.
When working with glass, Bothwell sculpts warm beeswax that she uses to cast a plaster-and-silica mold. She then fills the empty shape with chunks of colored glass, which are placed in a kiln for annealing, cooled in cold water, and finally sanded and chiseled down. Hand-painted details adorn the sculpture’s exterior, along with found objects like antique prosthetic eyes, deer antlers, and ball feet.
The result of this months-long technique is a surreal collection that merges the organic forms and processes of nature with uncanny details. Each lusterless piece explores the relationship between the alluring oddities of the exterior and the translucent insides, which Bothwell explains:
Changing the body is merely adjusting the outer wrapping, as far as I can see… I am intrigued with the spirit world, and I imagine that we pass in and out of it, into the physical realm with bodies, then out of it at the end of life into lighter, energy bodies… And along the way throughout our lives, we transform ourselves constantly, reinventing who we are on a daily basis.
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In his latest project “What It Is Like To Be,” artist Thomas Medicus (previously) employs his illusory style to create an anamorphic glass sculpture that changes with every 90 degree turn. The cubic piece is comprised of 144 glass strips that are arranged to depict four distinct images—clothes strung up on a line, bats clinging to a branch as they hang upside down, a diverse patch of mushrooms, and three figures who are caught in the rain. Each glass portion is handpainted separately with acrylic before being mounted in a concrete socle that sits inside a wooden bowl and stretches about 30 centimeters long.
The Austria-based artist’s project references a 1974 paper by American philosopher Thomas Nagel. Titled “What Is It Like to Be a Bat?,” the seminal text questions the relationship between human and animal subjectivity, stating that although people can imagine life as a bat, they can never know truly what it means to be a different animal. Nagel’s work influenced later conversations about consciousness and the ways humans understand and relate to other living beings. In a note to Colossal, Medicus described his connection to Nagel’s writing.
For quite a long time, I was seeking to understand how I can value the natural sciences without having to devalue subjectivity, personal experience, or qualitative research. Back then I wasn’t really able to do that. For me, art was a way to question an exclusively materialistic worldview without at the same time having to be a spiritual or religious person. “What Is It Like to Be a Bat?” by Thomas Nagel provides a great philosophical basis to put these different worlds in one frame and personally helped me to do that.
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Artist Shayna Leib (previously) finds inspiration in wind and water for her intricate and delicate glass sculptures. Thousands of hand-pulled canes are affixed into improvised compositions that mimic sea life swept by natural forces. Custom hues accentuate the soft appearance of the sculptures while contrasting the nature of the material and the caneworking process.
As Leib explains on her website, cane pulling involves layering colorants between gathers of molten glass and stretching it into rods. Two of the artist’s latest compositions, “Grotto” and “Harmattan,” get their deep red color from colorants formulated with gold. The rods are then curved using a kiln and molds before being cut into smaller sections. After sorting the tens of thousands of pieces by color and shape, Leib begins the process of arranging them in frames to form three-dimensional works.
“The things I find beautiful have always been fractal in nature,” Leib said in a statement. “I am intrigued by multitudes of tiny little parts- blades of grass all bending in the wind to the same rhythm. As you pan out you have waves of form. Zoom in and you see each individual blade of grass moving to the flow of the wind.” To view more angles of Leib’s dynamic glass sculptures, follow her on Instagram.
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Rhode Island-based glass artist Claire Kelly creates adorable animal sculptures out of glass that connect to serious issues concerning the environment. Balancing on balls and standing precariously in boats and on peanuts, the little birds, giraffes, and elephants invite viewers to consider the fragility of the world and how micro-level choices can have a major impact.
Kelly tells Colossal that the series of animal sculptures began in 2014 after a hiatus from her other work. The works were born from drawings and sketches she made as a creative outlet. Working with colored strips of glass called cane, the process and materials affect the size of the final pieces. The cane allows for complex patterns, but in preparation for the glass blowing process they need to be heated on a flat kiln shelf. “The size of the kiln shelf plays a part in how large the final glass piece can be,” Kelly explains. “The larger the shelf the heavier it is and the larger team and heating chamber I need to have.” While she does occasionally work at a larger scale, the artist says that size is not the most important factor because she is inviting viewers into “an intimate microcosm.”
Although she works with easily recognizable animals, Kelly’s use of color and pattern adds an imaginative element. “Depending on the animal and form I try to use colors that come right up to the edge of being conflicting but somehow work together,” she explains. “Color is so emotionally charged and I often find myself getting really happy when using certain colors in combination…I experiment a lot and have a sense of how some colors react to their neighbors. There’s a really sense of harmony and balance that I look for when planning a color scheme.”
As Kelly has continued to explore representational themes in her work, she shares that her has recently been inspired by creating multiple related pieces in a tableau. “It’s modular and adds interest from a design standpoint,” the artist shares. “I can create forms that interact with each other while telling a story about their little world.” To discover more of Claire Kelly’s colorful creatures, follow her on Instagram.
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Glass artist Laura Hart (previously) uses a range of techniques to translate her love of plants and animals into meticulously crafted sculptures. For her “Butterflies” series, the artist has recreated rare species and subspecies from around the world with bright colors and symmetrical designs that perfectly mimic their natural muses.
Never recreating the same species twice, Hart casts the bodies of her one-of-a-kind insects using the lost wax molding and pate de verre kiln casting processes. Each delicate sculpture is around 18cm wide. A glass fusing method is used to make the realistic wings in stages, with intense hues and translucent sections outlined in black. The sections form tiny stained glass windows, altering the light that passes through and reflecting onto the tables and display stands. Sterling silver pieces are added to complete the sculptures, forming the legs, antennae, and proboscides of the colorful creatures.
To see more of Laura Hart’s glass works, check out the artist’s Facebook page.
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Thousands of Shards of Glass Imitate Blurred Motion in a Towering Public Sculpture by Costas Varotsos
First completed in 1988, Dromeas or “The Runner,” is a 40-foot-tall public sculpture created by Greek artist Costas Varotsos. The densely layered work is formed from thousands of jagged shards of greenish-grey glass which are stacked around iron in the formation of a runner in motion. Originally the piece was installed in the Athens’s Omonia Square, but due to fear that it would topple from underground metro vibrations, in 1994 the city moved the piece to Megalis tou Genous Sholi square. When designing the sculpture, Varotsos considered which types of movement occur in these public spaces and how they might impact the viewing of his work.
“The position of people on the square is never fixed,” he explains. “As is the case with every city, here, too, objects and buildings are things you see while in motion. Rarely do you stop to look closely at something. Individuals observing the sculpture do so at two speeds, depending on where they are on the square: walking on the sidewalks or driving by in a car. The kind of space operating here is not only a purely visual one, but also one open to the sense of touch; one generating a tactile sensation.”
The ambiguous figure is meant to capture the exact moment one finishes a race—be that a literal translation of a marathon, or a more loose interpretation of conquering a challenging moment. You can see more of Varotsos’s public sculptures on his website. (via Atlas Obscura)
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Highlights below. For the full collection click here.