SMC gallery features glass art

Published 8:59 am Friday, March 22, 2019

DOWAGIAC — “Set and Setting,” designed by the Kalamazoo glassmaking team of Ekin Deniz Aytac and Joshua Davids, will be displayed in Southwestern Michigan College’s Art Gallery through March 28.

Sculptural glass works and pyrographic renderings reflect on the nature of self as it relates to places and things that shape our experience. Four distinct meditations constitute the body of this collection, each employing traditional glassmaking techniques to develop unconventional objects revolving around the themes of Set and Setting, according to SMC officials.

The gallery in room 108 of the Dale A. Lyons Building on the Dowagiac campus will be closed during spring break April 1-5, then the annual student exhibition opens April 15. Gallery hours are 11:45 a.m. to 3 p.m., Monday through Thursday. There is no charge to enter.

With pyrographs, molten glass is used as a mark-making tool, burning into wood to create lines molded into stylized representations of cityscapes, with white pastel as a highlight.

In cityscapes, traditional vessel forms help capture the landscape as though viewed through a wide-angle fisheye lens. A variety of color applications, diamond-cutting and sand-engraving give each piece a feel as unique as the experience of places that inspired them.

Water vessels take inspiration from the rich colors and movement of large bodies of water. These objects offer a stark contrast to the hard lines and rigidity of manmade structures. These pieces are created using incalmo technique, which joins two separately blown bubbles while still hot.

“In those (five) pieces, a blue section and a white section are shaped together as one object,” Davids said. “Switched axis shows design on the face of the glass, rather than the bottom or top.”

Fractal assemblage involves repetition of form, as well as the complex interaction of light and glass, to create the force underlying the installation. More than 100 individual glass objects were created with molten glass, then cut in half and faceted to create more optical intrigue. After cold-working, pieces were reassembled in the hot glass studio and polished with fire.

“Glass is one of the most versatile materials,” Davids said. “As a maker, it’s one of the most challenging mediums I’ve worked with. Glass is unique in the way it interacts with light, which slows down as it travels through the glass. That opens up lots of opportunities for experimentation.”

“For two weeks, we experimented on the design process for pieces we wanted to show here,” Aytac said. “We looked at all aspects of this space, like the two doorways, and how to place them” considering what visitors see first, their pattern navigating the rooms and what object is viewed last. Given that level of preparation, visitors may wonder why they left the back wall of the front gallery blank rather than mounting the quintet of blue-and-white works. “It would stop you there. It would be the face of the show, which shouldn’t have a face,” Aytac replied.

“We are a team making all this stuff in concert,” Davids said. “We try to play to each other’s strengths in the shop because there are things one of us is better at than the other. We have really nice constructive communication and criticism of what we’re doing.”

Davids said working with delicate glass means “immediacy. Everything has to happen at the same time. So much can go wrong in that dance.”

“There’s a saying in glass, ‘How long did it take to make? Ten minutes and 15 years,’” said art instructor Shannon Eakins, who will accompany students to Kalamazoo in April to experience glass blowing.

“We tell students not to fall in love with anything they make,” Aytac said.

Glass Art Kalamazoo’s Battle of the Glass Blowers takes place in early May. The community-based non-profit organization, founded in 2002, has as its mission to provide exceptional glass art experiences. Classes are offered in glass blowing, lampworking and kiln fusing. Glass Art Kalamazoo, 326 W. Kalamazoo Ave., also offers demonstrations from 5 to 9 p.m. on the first Friday each month as part of Kalamazoo Art Hop.