Time was when glass sculpture was pretty much just that — glass.
No more. As the “Michigan Regional Glass Exhibition” at West Bloomfield’s Janice Charach Gallery demonstrates, the art-glass movement has made an enthusiastic entrance into the world of exotic mixed media.
The show, which features 37 Michigan and Ohio artists, is up through April 13.
Consider the elements that went into creating Allie McAughey’s “Subjective Perceptions,” a multi-colored, variegated abstract that has some of the feel of a dense coral forest.
“There’s everything from fake hair to snake skins and dead bugs,” said the recent College for Creative Studies graduate, reached at her home in Trenton. “Collecting the material is kind of the most tedious part of the process.”
Glass only constitutes about a third of the assemblage, McAughey estimates, adding that at heart she’s a collage artist who lets each project dictate its requisite materials — glass not always required.
“I don’t have much formal training in glassblowing,” she said. “But I’m learning.” With “Subjective Perceptions” she blew little spheres that look like extra-large, clear marbles, in which she inserted material “to give them a second layer and three-dimensionality.”
In some cases, McAughey cut the sphere in half. That way, she noted, “It almost gives the illusion that the piece is bubbling up from below” — a very cool illusion, indeed.
Gallery director Kelly Kaatz says one thing she particularly likes about the show, which was curated by Ferdinand Hampson of Habatat Galleries in Royal Oak, is that there’s a great deal of conceptual work.
She cites a particularly intriguing piece by Brianna Barron, comprised of glass fragments that have been sewn together, with tiny rubber apparatuses inside each one. When you squeeze an external pump, Kaatz added, “the pieces look like they’re breathing” — which is both exhilarating and a little creepy.
Indeed, Kaatz added, “With most high-end glass shows, you really never see these sorts of pieces.”
The exhibition is another reminder that this part of the Midwest played an outsized role in the development of art glass.
Indeed, before studio-glass pioneers Harvey Littleton and Dominick Labino launched a series of hands-on experimental seminars at the Toledo Museum of Art in 1962, artistic glass was the exclusive province of factories.
Until then, no one had developed high-temperature furnaces small enough for an individual artist to use, nor glass marbles that would properly melt and fuse at the heat levels a non-industrial set-up could muster.
Once that technical threshold was crossed, however, the Toledo Studio Glass Movement was born, and the world of glass design would never be the same.
Not surprisingly, the movement put down deep roots in the region of its birth.
Every year Habatat Galleries hosts the continent’s most-important art-glass show with their “Glass International Award Exhibition,” opening April 29. Additionally, the Toledo Museum of Art, Detroit Institute of Arts and the Henry Ford Museum all have important studio-art collections.
So it comes as little surprise, Kaatz noted, that “Toledo, Detroit and Bowling Green are often called the Glass Belt.”
Regional Glass Exhibition’
Through April 13
Janice Charach Gallery, 6600 W. Maple, West Bloomfield
10 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Wednesday; 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Thursday; noon-4 p.m. Sunday (closed Saturdays)