Glass Exhibit Showcases the State’s Best Print
Art - Reviews
Tuesday, 19 November 2002 18:00
Raised in Illinois, the current show at the Quad City Arts Center in The District of Rock Island, is a great show, a must-see. The exhibit showcases works created by more than 25 graduate students, alumni, and faculty from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Illinois State University in Bloomington-Normal. Each piece is worthy of mention and note, with uniformly high quality and creativity.

The show was guest-curated by Rock Island glass artist Mark Fowler, an alumnus of the University of Illinois, and he’s done a remarkable job of bringing together a wonderful cross-section of artwork from across the country, from Tacoma, Washington, to Honeoye Falls, New York, with the bulk of the artists residing and working throughout the Midwest. The geographic dispersion is created because a significant number of the artists are making their livings from the glass craft.

The most striking installation in the show is Field of Mines by Michael Meilahn of Pickett, Wisconsin. Black glass globes with protruding yellow conical glass spikes in the form of corn cobs are suspended from the ceiling at various heights, giving the feel of a World War II underwater mine field that a person can walk through. It is a great concept, executed well.

Laura Ward does glass vases with a personality. Two examples are Victoria and Gloria, “dressed up” with decorative glass in clothing that would befit a woman with the given name. For example, Victoria is long and lean in a form-fitting red gown with a black boa-like sequined trim. Gloria, on the other hand, is a full-figured powder-blue vase with beadwork along her bodice.

Elizabeth Coleman of Geneseo has a small ceramic girl with the body of an ear of corn peeking out of an amber-glass ear of corn. It is a combination of glass-blowing and kitsch art.

Fred DiFrenzi of Louisville, Kentucky, has a very striking glass platter. It features a posterized portrait of a woman resembling Lady Liberty with a spiked border around the platter that calls to mind the rays of light from the crown atop the Statue of Liberty. The woman in the portrait is clearly someone other than Lady Liberty and is covering her eye for some reason. The platter is a striking work of art that grabs your attention as you walk by.

This exhibit should inspire artists and entertain art viewers. Of the local shows we’ve had the opportunity to see this year, this is among the very best.

Speaking of glasswork and outstanding art shows, we cannot ignore Dale Chihuly’s long-running show this year at the Garfield Park Conservatory in Chicago, Chihuly in the Park: A Garden of Glass. It was supposed to close on May 19 but was extended until November 4 and was well worth the trip and price of admission. Chihuly’s work is unique and takes glasswork to a new level. The placement of the pieces within the world’s largest glassed-in conservatory was stunning; seeing the glass set in with plants in a natural setting took the entire experience to a new level. It was also encouraging seeing so many middle-class visitors in this gritty inner-city neighborhood.

Yet as impressed as I was with the Chihuly exhibit, this installation at the Quad City Arts Center in downtown Rock Island compares favorably. What it lacks in the spacious setting of Garfield Park is made up for with the diversity of style. These artists do not have the funding of a Chihuly, so the works are not as monumental (although the Orchid by the welcome desk at the start of the exhibit is not small). That Chihuly and the Illinois glass artists can be mentioned in the same context tells us that this is an exhibit that transcends the usual local fare; it is a solid regional show that is well worth seeing. Unfortunately, the show has a short run, so be sure to visit it before Thanksgiving.
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