A brilliant greenhouse suffused with a rich spectrum of color stands at 25 Porchester Place in London. Bathed in sunlight by day and illuminated by LED bulbs at night, the translucent structure is lined with a disorienting collage of Christian iconography and folkloric imagery: saintly figures sprout insect wings and wildlife occupies spaces usually dominated by humans in a melange of spiritual symbols.
Titled “Sacré blur,” the greenhouse is a 2015 project by horticultural artists Tony Heywood and Alison Condie, who originally created the piece to house psychedelic plants at the Oxford Botanic Gardens—this part of the project never materialized over fears that students might misuse the hallucinatory specimens. The intention for the sculpture revolved around the idea of sacred light, the foremost example being stained glass, and creating a transcendent space complete with a mirrored infinity floor. “We are gardeners,” Heywood shares with Colossal. “The greenhouse is an architect’s equivalent of a temple. It’s where life begins and the ritual of caring and nurture take place.”
The London-based pair, who work as Heywood & Condie, began by dismantling hundreds of panels, some of which dated back to the 18th and 19th centuries, and following the patterns and grisaille to splice new creatures. They then glued the layered works to the existing frame of a greenhouse. “The idea is nature transforming and using the stained glass as a medium to visit a (time) when we worshiped plants, insects, and animals, as opposed to the Christian line of thinking that humans are above animals, above everything,” Heywood says.
This connection to the earth alongside an interest in the broad reaches of spirituality influence the pair’s practice, particularly those relating to creation myths and about bringing new life into existence. “Church is about shifting our consciousness and making us think of where we lie in the world and likewise, whether it’s a psychedelic experience or a meditative experience, it’s about shifting our attention,” he shares. “Gardening is an act of creation.”
“Sacré blur” has been exhibited in multiple locations in recent years and will be at its current spot for the coming weeks. Heywood & Condie have a few works in progress at the moment, including an alphabetical labyrinth on a northwest U.K. beach and an obelisk collection mixing religious stained glass along with pieces from early pinball and gambling machines that will be on view at Vigo Gallery. You can also see their works as part of The Poetry of Trees, which opens at The Atkinson in Southport on June 4, and on June 11, a series of jewel-encrusted marine microorganisms will float across The Water Gardens at Marble Arch in London. (via Steampunk Tendencies)
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Kyiv-based artist Nikita Drachuk (previously) is behind a delicate menagerie of translucent octopuses, striped spiders, and mottled slugs exquisitely crafted in glass. Elaborately shaped with curling tentacles and segmented legs, the miniature creatures are the product of lampworking, which involves melting the colorful material with a lamp or torch. Drachuk works under the moniker Glass Symphony and has hundreds of pieces available on Etsy.
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Artist Kiva Ford (previously) spends his days shaping minuscule vessels for chemists, engineers, and physicists. He manages the custom scientific glass shop at the University of Notre Dame, where he’s tasked with creating unique instruments designed for specific research projects. The exacting quality of these pieces is reflected in all of his hand-blown works, which range from Klein bottles and flasks to vases, pitchers, and jars holding anatomical sculptures in miniature.
COVID-19 increased the demand for his wares, Ford tells Colossal, and he currently has a number of colorful pieces available on Etsy. On March 19, he’ll be hosting a demonstration of nesting a small vessel inside a larger, identical work at the International Flameworking Conference in New Jersey. You can also find videos and images documenting his process on Instagram.
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Digital models of bacteria and viruses are essential for scientists communicating vital health information to the broader public. Paired with news articles and government guidelines, the depictions offer powerful visuals for otherwise invisible harms, and although accurate in shape and structure, many renderings often feature colors chosen at the artist’s discretion—this includes the now-infamous depiction of the red, spiked SARS-CoV-2, which was named a Beazley Design of the Year.
Back in 2004, artist Luke Jerram began questioning the impact of this creative license, asking whether people believed that microbes are inherently vibrant and how exactly viewers are supposed to tell which renderings feature accurate colors and which are alterations. This interest sparked his ongoing Glass Microbiology project, which creates models of viruses like Zika, smallpox, and HIV as clear sculptures.
Created approximately 1 million times larger than the actual cells, Jerram’s works highlight the intricate and unique structures without obscuring a viewer’s impression based on color. He collaborates with virologists from the University of Bristol to ensure the form’s accuracy before being glassblowers Kim George, Brian Jones, and Norman Veitch help mold the delicate shapes, starting with the coiled nucleic acid at the center and later the outer proteins. Together, they’ve created dozens of models so far, including the long, worm-like ebola and a T4 bacteriophage with a rectangular head and multiple legs.
“Of course, by making it in glass, you create something that’s incredibly beautiful. There’s a tension there, between the beauty of the object and what it represents,” the U.K.-based artist said in an interview. “By making the invisible visible, we’re able to feel like we have a better sense of control over it.”
Jerram’s microbes are on view in two exhibitions this month: as part of Hope from Chaos: Pandemic Reflections at the ArtScience Museum in Singapore and at Henry Moore Institute’s A State of Matter. Explore the vast collection and dive into the science behind the works on the Glass Microbiology site.
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Sitting a few miles from the German border, Nijmegen is the oldest city in The Netherlands, and after a recent archeological dig, it’s also the site that unearthed a stunningly preserved bowl made of blue glass. The pristine finding, which is estimated to be about 2,000 years old, is from the agricultural Bataven settlement that once populated the region. Featuring diagonal ridges, the translucent vessel was made by pouring molten glass into a mold, sculpting the stripes while the material was liquid, and using metal oxide to produce the vibrant blue. Archeologists uncovered it without a single chip or crack.
Around the time the bowl was procured, Nijmegen was an early Roman military camp and later, the first to be named a municipium, or Roman city. Archeologist Pepjin van de Geer, who led the excavation, told the De Stentor that while it’s possible the vessel was created in a German glass workshop in cities like Cologne or Xanten, it’s also likely that the Batavians traded cattle hides to procure it. In addition to the piece, van de Geer’s team has also uncovered human bones, pitchers, cups, and other precious goods like jewelry, which indicates the site was once a burial ground. (via Hyperallergic)
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Dreamlike Sculptures by Christina Bothwell Meld Ceramic, Glass, and Oil Paint into Otherworldly Figures
From her Pennsylvania studio, Christina Bothwell (previously) sculpts surreal hybrid creatures and figures that occupy the unearthly space between dreams and wakefulness. She works with a combination of annealed glass, pit-fired ceramics, oil paint, and small mosaic tiles, which each correspond to a conceptual element. “I always come back to the idea that the physical part of us is just a small part of who we are in our entirety,” the artist tells Colossal. “The translucent parts of my pieces are meant to suggest the soul or that part of us that is more than just our bodies. The ceramic portions of my pieces represent our grounded, tangible parts.”
In her most recent body of work, Bothwell continues her explorations into the liminal and states of flux: a slumbering child appears to float from its sleeping counterpart in “Lucid Dream,” while another lies upside down in “Mood Swing.” Many of the sculptures are tinged with themes of magic, imagination, and escapism, which are reflected in the ways that human bodies meld with birds, monkeys, octopuses, and deer. She explains:
I was a sensitive child with eccentric parents who didn’t fit in. I didn’t even fit in with my family a lot of the time. It was like I was a changeling or an alien they were forced to live with. I felt like an outsider for most of my life, and it always felt precarious, unsafe, being who I was. For this reason, I think I identify with deer… despite their beauty and grace, they are not protected or valued (at least not where I live), and their vulnerability and innocence resonates with something deep within me.
Bothwell’s fantastical works will be on view at Habatat Gallery and Muskegon Museum of Art as part of the upcoming Beyond the Glass Ceiling, Influential Women in Glass exhibition and again this summer at Tory Folliard Gallery in Milwaukee. Until then, explore more of her sculptures on Instagram.
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