The Fine Art Museum at Western Carolina University will host the exhibit “North Carolina Glass 2012: In Celebration of 50 Years of Studio Glass in America” from Sunday, Oct. 28, through Friday, Feb. 1.
A reception was held Sunday, Oct. 28. Gallery talks included “Early Years in Studio Glass,” by Fritz Dreisbach, who spent time at WCU in 1974 as a visiting artist and built a glass furnace on campus; and “The North Carolina Glass Exhibit Series,” by Joan Falconer Byrd, a WCU professor of art who curated the show with museum interim director Denise Drury. Dreisbach also gave glass-blowing demonstrations on Monday, Oct. 29, at the Jackson County Green Energy Park in Dillsboro.
WCU has documented the development of the state’s glass community in a series of invitational “North Carolina Glass” exhibitions initiated in 1974 by Byrd. With the most recent “North Carolina Glass” exhibit now more than 15 years past, and with this year marking the 50th anniversary of the development of studio art glass in America, the WCU Fine Art Museum is launching the largest and most comprehensive of the glass series exhibits to date. “North Carolina Glass 2012” includes the work of more than 20 artists and demonstrates a wide range of glass-working techniques, from traditional glass-blowing to experimental forms. Artists William Bernstein, Mark Peiser and Richard Ritter exhibited in the 1974 exhibit and will again have work on display.
“The exhibition both celebrates the artistic achievements of a community of artists and recognizes the significant contribution the state of North Carolina has made in the advancement of studio glass in America,” Drury said. “Throughout this exhibition, one will see a variety of styles, techniques and form created by several generations of North Carolina glass artists.”
North Carolina plays a key role in the founding of the studio glass movement. Early on, artists working in the medium gathered at the Penland School of Crafts to study and teach; Dreisbach was among them. Harvey Littleton, the artist credited with starting the studio glass movement, was so taken with Western North Carolina that after a visit in 1976, he and his wife decided to relocate his studio from Wisconsin to Spruce Pine. WCU boasts a unique archive of vitreographs, which are prints made from glass plates, from Littleton’s studio. As Byrd, who recently penned Littleton’s biography, notes in her introduction to the exhibit program, the exhibit commemorates the birth of the studio glass movement and Littleton’s 90th birthday.
Drury credits Byrd’s involvement with WCU’s legacy of glass exhibits. “It is because of her keen interest, knowledge of the medium and its capabilities and passion for the future of studio glass in North Carolina that this series has endured and remains a focus of Fine Art Museum today,” Drury said.