Chihuly, Scanga and Shire · Works in Glass

Dale Chihuly, Italo Scanga and Peter Shire are three of the most prominent artists working in the medium of glass. The 20-piece exhibition is representative of a new glass-blowing method that permits odd shapes and sizes beyond traditional symmetrical forms.

The art glass world experienced a revolution in the early 1960s when artist and scientist Dominic Labino developed a method of making glass at a relatively low melting point in small furnaces. The breakthrough enabled artists to produce glass in their own workshops, freeing them from the stifling restrictions of art glass produced in factories.

Dale Chihuly founded the Pilchuck Glass School in the Seattle area in 1971. Chihuly’s works in this exhibition belong to a series called the Venetians, which was inspired by the traditional millefiori (a thousand flowers) and filigrana (filigree) techniques of Venetian glass production of the 16th century. Chihuly began his Venetians in July 1988 with a series of drawings in pencil and watercolor, which were brought to life in glass by Italian gaffer (glassblower) Lino Tagliapietra at Chihuly’s Seattle studio. They reflect the artist’s enduring interest in nature and organic form, but they represent a departure from his free-form design manner, using a symmetrical-shaped core.

Chihuly was born in 1941 in Tacoma, Washington. He studied interior design at the University of Washington and graduated with a BA in 1965. Chihuly enrolled in the first glass program in the country at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and earned an MS in 1967. He continued his studies at the Rhode Island School of Design, where he received an MFA in 1968, and later established the glass program and taught for more than a decade.

Italo Scanga was born in 1932 in Lago, Calabria, Italy, and arrived in the US in 1947 at the age of 15. He earned his MFA and BA from Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan, and taught in the Visual Arts Department, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla.

As a sculptor, Scanga has incorporated glass containers in his assemblages since the early 1970s. He designed his first glass works in the early 1980s, which are represented in this exhibition by the painted pieces. The painted images reflect Scanga’s interest in a variety of artistic sources such as cubism and folk art. Scanga juggles contradictions – realistic and abstract. Regarding his vessels with sculptural forms of birds, he explains, “I liked the idea of a living thing like a bird flying down and getting stuck – frozen in space, in time – a moving thing that simply stopped.”

Los-Angeles artist and designer Peter Shire began experimenting with glass in the mid-1980s when he spent two weeks as artist-in-residence at the Pilchuck Glass School. His designs combine fine art, advertising, graphic and industrial design with a heavy dose of humor. He juxtaposes geometric and organic shapes and whimsical color schemes. His pieces take on zany names like Eggs on a Raft, Ellios’ Fish Dinner and Happy Unbirthday.

Peter Shire was born in 1947 in Los Angeles, and he graduated in 1970 with a BFA from the Chouinard Art Institute, Los Angeles. Shire will present a public lecture at 2 p.m. Sunday, May 5, in Carlsen Center 211.

The gallery guide features an essay by Bonnie Speed, Ph.D. candidate in art history, University of Kansas.

This exhibition would not have been possible without the generous loan of works from numerous sources. We are most grateful to Dale Chihuly, Italo Scanga, Peter Shire and Richard Royal for their assistance with this exhibit. Thanks should also be extended to Anthea Zonars, glass director of the Betsy Rosenfield Gallery, Chicago; David Tooker, director of the Joanne Rapp Gallery/ The Hand and the Spirit, Scottsdale, Arizona; Sandra Schemske of the Susanne Bilberry Gallery, Birmingham, Michigan; Tracey Savage and Kerri Adams of the Dale Chihuly Studio, Seattle; and Donna Shire.

We are also indebted to JCCC Community Services, Hallmark Cards Inc. and Richard Farnan, AIA, for their generous financial support.