On Friday 25 January, I visited a major art show at the Palm Beach County Convention Center. ArtPalmBeach had over seventy international galleries presenting all forms of contemporary art–painting, sculpture, photography, fine art glass, video and installations. The draw for me was to hear an interview with one of my favorite artists, Lino Tagliapietra, like Dale Chihuly, a master of glass art. I had first seen Tagliapietra’s work at the Renwick Gallery in Washington in 2009, then last January at ArtPalmBeach and last October at Rice University’s Fondren Library.
Tagliapietra was born in 1934 on the island of Murano, Italy, historic center of Venetian glassmaking. His father was a fisherman, but he married into a family that had been glassblowers for 600 years. His early work, he said, was making lamps using traditional techniques. He still has a studio in Murano, but he is very proud of his large facility in Seattle, where more expressivity is possible. When asked about the creative process, he referred to letting “the GPS of the mind” direct the numerous steps and assistants involved. Some of his best work happens when he makes mistakes and learns from them. Tagliapietra has traveled widely and collaborated with artists in Poland, Spain, Japan, the US and Australia. He cited Indian blankets as inspiration for some of his panel pieces.
Besides Tagliapietra’s wonderful works, I was also intrigued by other artists working in glass: Stephen Knapp, Toland Sand and Abby Modell. I met the latter two and enjoyed talking with them, especially Toland Sand, who uses dichroic glass. The Greek word “dichroic” means “two lights” and describes this glass’s unique ability to produce two different colors simultaneously. Dichroic glass is created by alternately evaporating zirconium oxide and silicone oxide and allowing them to condense in layers on glass. In a vacuum chamber, these materials form stacks of extremely thin films. Toland Sand told me that these techniques were developed by NASA contractors making special glass heat shields for space shuttles. Last year Steve and I bought a small dichroic glass work by James Nowak called “Tumbling Cubes” for our Florida house. I love the way it subtly changes colors throughout the day.
Friday evening our friends Jerry and Susan Pittman arrived from Texas. Jerry was the best man in our wedding in 1966, as Steve was in Jerry’s the same summer. Our paths had diverged until recently and I had never had a chance to get to know Susan. But over dinner Friday evening, it quickly became apparent that we share many of the same interests in art, literature and politics. Susan, a retired teacher, is a docent at the Modern Art Museum in Fort Worth. On Saturday, she used her membership card to take me to the Norton Museum in Palm Beach. We were excited to see Annie Leibowitz’ photographs, Dale Chihuly’s glass ceiling, contemporary art by Africans and Afro-Americans, and Sylvia Plimack Mangold’s Landscapes and Trees. What a stimulating two days in Palm Beach, only 20 minutes away! With this link you can visit an album of all the photos I took.