150 Years of Glass

I just made my second visit to the Corning Museum of Glass!


This museum is so big that it’s worth focusing your efforts on one area rather than trying to take in the whole thing at once. This time I started with contemporary works and only went back as far as glass from the late 1800s. It was easy to do this sort of retrospective by starting with the museum’s new exhibit, New Glass Now.

The curator’s notes call this exhibit “the present tense of contemporary glass,” a chance to see “works that challenge the very notion of what glass is and what it can do.” It’s an impressive collection of 100 pieces selected by a panel of four glass artists and curators.


That’s Cephaloproteus Riverhead (Four Hearts, Ten Brains, Blue Blood Drained Through an Alembic) by Dustin Yellin. None of us understood the title, but we loved the giant aquarium of fish and people floating inside:


Some of the pieces in this exhibit turn glass into other artistic media, like this letterpress box with hundreds of glass letters (Alphabit, by Helen Lee) …



… this representation in glass of the “four treasures” — brush, paper, inkstone, and inkstick — of the Chinese study (Tranquility, by Qin Wang) …


… and this graffiti tag/glass marijuana pipe (Untitled, by David Colton):


Some of the pieces are more technically exciting, stretching glass into difficult or new kinds of forms, such as “Bubble” Cabinet, by Jeroen and Joep Verhoeven …


Reservoir, by C. Matthew Szosz (created using a 19th-century rope-making machine) …


… and Zeeuws Licht no. 1/The Light From Zeeland, by Ans Bakker (made from a blow mold impressed with rocks, seaweed, and oyster shells):


Some of the pieces in the show are simply dramatic (Lustre Gothique aux 
Saphirs, by Frida Fjellman) …


… provocative (Cities Underwater: seven sites, by Norwood Viviano, which asks us to visualize the effects of climate change) …


… or quietly beautiful (Promise, by Nadege Desgenetez):


Other contemporary pieces on the same floor, which are part of the museum’s permanent collection, include Red Pyramid and Through the Cone by Stanislav Libensky and Jaroslava Brychtova …


Half-Green Egg with Optical Lens, by Vaclav Cigler …


… the giant Still Life with Two Plums, by Flora C. Mace and Joey Kirkpatrick …


… and this dramatic landscape, Innerland, by Eric Hilton:


Upstairs you’ll find the Ben W. Heineman Sr. Family Gallery of Contemporary Glass, which focuses on pieces that were made between 1975 and 2000. I haven’t studied glass history well enough to understand how this was “a period of 25 years that changed glass,” but I really liked some of the work, including Whopper Vase by Dante Marioni …


… and these beetles by Vittorio Costantini:


And I can’t help adding two other pieces from this gallery that I included in my last post about the museum, just because they’re so fantastic — Cityscape, by Jay Musler …


… and Chess Set, by Gianni Toso …


… which features lampblown Roman Catholics (Franciscans) on one side …


… and Jews (Hassidim) on the other…

Version 2

… including a rabbi who has just performed a bris!


There’s also more contemporary glass — presumably from less famous artists — at the entrance to the museum’s crafting studio.



Artist: Elizabeth Johnson


Artist: Debbie Tarsitano

To go further back in time, you need to head over to the 35 Centuries of Glass Galleries. Here you’ll find glass from the ancient Romans and Egyptians all the way up to the studio glass movement of the 1960s — but I skipped straight to the sections housing glass from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. There’s lots of art deco glass (1918-1939), including this large vase by Andre Dellatte …


… and these candle holders by Napoleone Martinuzzi …


… as well as plenty of art nouveau glass (1890-1910), including these fantastic vases (one a pansy, one a jack in the pulpit) from Louis Comfort Tiffany:



I’m a huge fan of Tiffany glass, so I spent a while with his pieces here.


“Cypriote” wall plaque


My mom and I in front of  the Tiffany window from Rochroane Castle


Mosaic “Poppy” inkstand and “Swirl” pen wiper

I love the detail in his work:


Top section of The Righteous Shall Receive a Crown of Glory


Flowers in the window from Rochroane Castle

The museum also has a whole gallery dedicated to the work of Frederick Carder, who designed glassware all the way from the late 1800s until 1963. Carder loved inventing new glass colors; he is most famous for his “gold aurene” (created in 1904 by spraying hot glass with stannous chloride) …


… and “blue aurene” (developed a year later by adding cobalt to the mix):


Carder eventually made many other iridescent glass pieces …



… and also experimented with etching:


The range of Carder’s work is truly stunning — he developed over 140 different colors and styles of glass while he managed Steuben Glass Works and eventually became the director at Corning Glass Works.


To see truly contemporary glass being made right in front of you, you can go to any of the museum’s many glassmaking demonstrations. We watched a lampworking (also known as flameworking) demo in which a young man created a plastic bag on chicken feet (proving that art knows no bounds):


They also craft glass eyeballs here!


For a hefty fee, you can create your own glass pieces (though most of the handling of the hot glass itself will be done by the experts). My mother and I blew glass ornaments, which involved a good bit of watching as a professional glassblower gathered the glass, added the color …


… and heated it up:


But then we got to do the actual blowing!


The results were highly satisfying — and while this ends up being a hefty price to pay for a large glass ball, the experience is well worth it.




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