One of the advantages of having worked as an artist for 50 years is that you can look back at your older work free of the emotional intensity that envelopes it at the time. Some pieces that seemed important when they were made become less significant when viewed as part of a historical continuum. Others that may have seemed less important then, turn out to have been pivotal in the evolution of the work. Looking back and studying how one series morphed and mutated into the next over the years is quite interesting and provides clearer insights into the origins and concepts of the most recent work.
The architectural influences and hi-tech scientific references in my sculpture have always been obvious, yet there are subtler interests permeating the creative process. The use of projected light, shadow, and illusion have been core elements of my work since the 1970s. My on-going fascination with primitive art and ritual as well as the color and imagery of the many cultural artifacts that I collect persist in finding their way into my thoughts and dreams.
In terms of formal aesthetic structure, I have always been interested in using the full 360-degree circumference of the sculpture, drawing the viewers into the piece as they move around it. The new spheres represent the culmination of that pursuit. They have no top or bottom, no up or down. They are fully volumetric on every three-dimensional axis. When this is combined with the interior refractions, reflections, and distortions, a fourth dimension of space is created within the sphere. A spiritual core, if you will. Each Sphere can be rotated into an infinite number of positions, creating a new set of spatial relationships with each location.
I began working with the sphere after reading an article on the theoretical analysis of gravitational fields. It described the three-dimensional universe that we perceive as a holographic projection generated by a two-dimensional field at the edge of infinity. The optical simplicity of the sphere permits an intimate exploration of the internal geometry. The structures are dimensionally illuminated, transforming the hard edges into a visual mirage as the light rays bend near the refracted perimeter.
My work has always been deliberately enigmatic, and I wish it to remain so. I encourage everyone viewing my sculpture to develop his or her own personal response mechanisms. If the work is to have any significance, it must survive on its own, outside the realm of my interpretive prose.
Light and shadow have been integral components of my sculpture since the mid-1970s. The manipulation of specific refractive techniques and controlled light projections have evolved over the years. I often juxtapose fractured, jagged edges with pristine optically polished surfaces to create the impression that the piece has been shattered off a larger structure Each sculpture requires between 200 and 500 hours of labor over a three to ten-month period, depending on the complexity.
The process starts with massive 75 to 125-pound blocks of optical glass, cast in billets for the optics industry. Utilizing a series of specially adapted tungsten carbide chisels, and hammers of various sizes, large conchoidal fractures are splintered off of the main block. Although the final result is intended to appear spontaneous, the process is highly controlled. The block is then cut into its trapezoidal form using automatic 24-inch diameter diamond saws. The individual facets are ground by hand on a series of large cast-iron wheels, fed with a slurry of silicon carbide and water. Successively finer grits are used on each wheel, starting with 60 mesh through 120 / 220, then to 320. At this point, the block appears grey in color. Work then begins on the complex color panels. As many as 15 different types of glass are used in each piece. Most of the vibrant colors are obtained from Vitrolite and Carrara, opaque sheet glasses used as architectural building facings from 1930 to 1955. Other colors are generated using tinted and dichroic optical glasses and architectural sheet glass. The thick black sections are cut from 1 ¼ inch tabletops cast, for an art deco restaurant in Buffalo, New York train station in 1924. The individual strips of colored glass are cut from larger sheets and machined by hand using diamond and silicon carbide abrasives. Machinists’ squares and micrometers are used to measure the exacting specifications at each step in the fabrication processes. The colored components are then laminated in a temperature-controlled room, using a high-tech Hxtal resin adhesive. A vacuum pump is used to remove the soluble gasses from the resin, producing an optically transparent bond that exceeds the shear strength of the glass itself. Hxtal resin has become the standard of the museum restoration industry worldwide. The fabrication process involves cutting, laminating, re-cutting, and laminating until the entire color panel is complete. The panel is then machined flat and laminated onto the main block. This process is repeated if a sculpture utilizes multiple panels.
Following panel lamination, the circular convex lenses are hand cut into the fractures at the base of the piece, using diamond wheel cutting techniques. The position of the lenses is determined by the projection of colored light into the fractures. After final lamination and lens cutting, each surface of the trapezoidal block is machined and optically polished on a series of lapping machines with flat reciprocating heads. A series of silicon carbide slurries take the surface to a600 mesh satin finish. Polishing is done on a textured nylon pad with a slurry of cerium oxide and water.
When the surface polishing process is complete, all edges are seamed and polished by hand. The sculpture is complete only when an overhead light source is projected through the color panels into the block, producing color washes over the fractures at the base of the piece. The lenses reflect the underside of the color panel, adding reflected as well as transmitted light into the center of the sculpture; while the oblique facets of the block refract and disperse the patterns and colors throughout the piece, creating a constant visual motion.
Selected Museum Collections
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, New York
The Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC
Los Angeles County Museum, Los Angeles, California
High Museum of Art, Atlanta, Georgia
Museum of Fine Arts, Lausanne, Switzerland
The De Young Museum, San Francisco, California
The Corning Museum of Glass, Corning, New York
Museum of Art and Design, New York, New York
Hokkaido Museum of Art, Sapporo, Japan
Musee de Verre, Liege, Belgium
Chrysler Museum of Art, Norfolk, Virginia
Art Museum, Dusseldorf, Germany
Detroit Institute of Art, Detroit, Michigan,
Indianapolis Museum of Art, Indiana
Toledo Museum of Art, Toledo, Ohio
Houston Museum of Fine Art, Houston, Texas
Museum fur Kunst und Gerwerbe, Hamburg, Germany
Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum, Wausau, Wisconsin
Dresden Museum of Art, Dresden Germany
Huntington Museum of Art, Huntington, West Virginia
Museum fur Kunsthandwerk, Frankfurt, Germany
Grassi Museum, Leipzig, Germany
Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburg, Pennsylvania
Dayton Museum of Art – Dayton, Ohio
Bergstrom Mahler Museum, Neenah, Wisconsin
The Tweed Museum of Art, Duluth, Minnesota
Lobmeyr Museum, Vienna, Austria
Rahr West Museum, Manitowoc, Wisconsin
Racine Museum of Art, Racine; Wisconsin
Illinois State Museum, Normal, Illinois
Glass Museum, Frauenau, Germany
Kunstmuseum, Wertheim, Germany
Veste Coburg Museum, Coburg, Germany
International Glass Museum, Ebeltoft, Denmark
St. Louis Museum of Art, St. Louis, Missouri
Museum of Decorative Arts, Prague, Czechoslovakia
The Flint Art Institute, Flint, Michigan
The Rockwell Museum, Corning, New York
Tacoma Art Museum, Tacoma, Washington
J B Speed Museum, Louisville, Kentucky
Birmingham Museum of Art, Alabama
Mint Museum, Charlotte, North Carolina
Fort Wayne Museum of Art, Fort Wayne, Indiana
Wustum Museum of Fine Art, Racine, Wisconsin
Palm Springs Museum of Art, California
The Ringling Museum of Art, Sarasota, Florida
University of Michigan – Dearborn
The Imagine Museum, Sarasota, Florida
Milwaukee Art Museum, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Tacoma Museum of Glass, Tacoma Washington