When have you last had a good, or even great, conversation? Was it with an old friend, colleague at work, or in a spirited debate with a stranger (soon perhaps, to be a friend) where you were challenged by someone or some idea that you had never considered?
For me, the best conversations - where the resulting insights "stick" - are those which have depth and humor. Those where at the end I have had to conclude that my way of looking at the world has changed - when some new learning, some new joy from the experience, or appreciation of the subject at hand, was the result.
Over the last (large!) number of years, my best and longest-lasting conversational partner has been with Glass, and the process of making sculpture.
I come at glass sculpture from a slightly different point of view than most practicing artists do, as both Connie, my wife, and I have been long-time glass collectors, even before I turned to the process of creation. We have traveled the world as part of my various jobs at Ford. We have been quite privileged to have had the opportunity to explore many of the world's great art museums, as well as most of the art glass manufacturers on four continents.
It is those experiences - my personal conversations with art of all kinds, and from all eras - that form the background for my sculptural work.
Creation for me is initially a two-way exchange between the artist and the material. The process and material have a powerful "vote" as to the final artistic outcome. There really is a "voice of the process" and a "voice of the material" that, in conversation with the artist - along with the occasional interjection of chance and happy accidents - have a significant (and sometimes dominant) influence on the finished piece.
Ultimately however, the final artistic conversation is between the creator, through his or her art, and the viewer.
In those conversations, I'm most often asked three questions:
Form - The enduring simplicity and beauty of the Platonic forms, the rectangle, cube, triangle, and sphere, are endlessly inspiring. Cezanne maintained that everything could be constructed from these building blocks. I agree.
Color - Sometimes the experience you want to create for the viewer is all about the impact even a single color can have in its infinite variations and hues - as profoundly demonstrated by Mark Rothko. That alone may be enough.
Narrative - I think the best art has an idea, a story, or a unifying concept, underlying the physical representation, that gives added value and increased depth of experience.
Motion - By motion, I mean two things: First, the piece itself expresses action in its very conception, in its form and even color. The piece is conceived and executed with the desire to express some form of movement. It is the antithesis of "static."
Second, and most importantly, motion refers to the movement by the viewer's eyes while contemplating the piece. For me, a great piece of sculpture has a visual complexity that never lets the viewer's eye rest. There is always more to see, more to appreciate, more to be experienced by looking and re-looking - at, over, and through the sculpture. It is almost as if the eye cannot get enough of the viewing experience.
Woody Allen has said, "Eighty percent of success (in life) is just showing up." More and more, I believe that, except I think the percentage is higher...
For me, inspiration comes from "showing up" at the studio regularly to work, and paying attention to the everyday experiences of life - of being open to the accumulated body of human experience, knowledge, science, and art. Or if you will, of being open to a conversation with life.
The ultimate motivation for me however, and what keeps me up nights in "artistic conversation" about the next creation, is the excitement of transforming imagination into reality. The joy of creating something, taking that initial whisper of an idea from mind to pedestal - in a medium that always surprises me with a voice of its own - is both profound, and addictive.
This exhibition covers the most recent fifteen or so years of my artistic output and features what I believe to be a collection of my most significant available pieces produced to date. About a quarter of these works were produced in the last several years and have never been exhibited previously.
I do hope you enjoy your conversations with my work; I look forward to the dialogue!
A Word on My Background:
My father was a mechanical engineer who worked on construction of the Hoover Dam during the Depression, and my mother was a homemaker and the creative spirit of the family. My artistic interests began at an early age when my mother drafted me to help in making sand-cast Xmas candles in the basement for family and friends. My sculptures utilize and reflect both of these parental influences.
I started collecting art while working thirty years at Ford Finance. Travel and financial resources gave me the opportunity to do so - following in my mother's footsteps as she collected Blenko Glassware for over forty years. Thirty years into my automotive career, after looking at modern art in many museums worldwide, it seemed to me that some of what passed for "great art" was so simplistic, that "Even I could do that" - so I did!
I retired from Ford, and began my second, artistic career. A four-year Fine Arts and Crafts degree at Detroit's College for Creative Studies (CCS) from 2002-2006 followed, and then the establishment of a glass-casting studio practice. The rest, as they say, is history - or in my case, my glass history.
--- JB Wood
The Stamelos Gallery Center is located on the first floor of the Mardigian Library at the University of Michigan-Dearborn. For more information, see below for contact information. Anyone requiring accommodations under the provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act should contact email@example.com.
World renowned artist Kyohei Fujita was born in Japan in 1921. He is known as the father of Japanese studio glass. Many of his works, including this one, were inspired by early Japanese boxes that were richly decorated with lacquerwork and mother-of-pearl inlays, and traditionally used to store Buddhist writings, jewelry, inkstones and brushes. Fujita's celebrated ornamental glass boxes revive conventional Japanese aesthetics in a contemporary form. This breathtaking piece was mold blown with gold and silver foil inclusions. Whenever asked by collectors what to keep in the boxes, the artist usually stated "You should put your dreams in them."
---Laura Cotton, Art Curator and Gallery Manager