Treasured: New Fire Glass Drawings by Anne Gant is currently on view at Exhibit A and runs through May 28.
Anne Gant graciously agreed to answer some questions about her work.
It is unexpected to find a someone using glass making techniques to produce artwork with no glass in it. Can you talk a little bit about how you first came up with the idea to press molten hot glass into wet paper?
It evolved from a glassblowing process, from one of my favorite techniques. You can "touch" the glass if you make a pad of wet newspaper and sort of cradle the glass in it, like using a catcher's mitt. It's a great way to get close to the glass without getting burned. When I was doing my Master's in glassblowing, I was keeping these newspaper pads at the end of each glassblowing session, because they were like a record of the day's work. And they had interesting burns on them. From that, I started trying to burn paper more strategically. It took some time to get from there to here, but eventually I came to this process of burning paper.
‘…getting close to the glass without getting burned.’ sounds as if you like the danger of it. Or if 'not the danger, what is it about the molten state of glass that inspires you?
Before I blew glass, I was doing metal sculpture. I like working with heat and fast processes. But what I really loved about glass was the way it is so difficult to control and dynamic in its molten state, and so beautiful! It was fascinating and mesmerizing. And a lot of these characteristics are actually lost when it cools down- it goes from being hot and responsive to cold and hard. I wanted to find a way to capture that action and excitement that the glassblower sees and feels, but that is often lost in the final glass form.
Can you discuss the imagery that you produce on the paper?
The basis of the imagery is traditional glass forms- bowls and cups and goblets, chandelier pieces and shapes like that, because those are the shapes that I make in glass. What I like about the burned drawings is that they seem to capture a lot of the volume of the glass and even sometimes look like they have highlights and shadows. So I like to draw things that also have a lot of sparkle, that refer to ornate glass forms themselves- in the past I've done chandeliers and giant piles of glass objects. In this show, I choose necklaces and jewelry. I also like the idea of depicting fancy things with just burned paper.
Yes. I have always enjoyed that you manage to make singe marks look twinkly! And your work does examine ideas about how we value things; what are the properties of materials and objects that make them precious to us. One could even argue that the most desirable things are the things that cannot be possessed because they are gone. That being said, a lot of visitors to the gallery ask what happens to the glass that is used to make your work and they seem sad that it is gone, but it is sort of poetic don’t you think?
I think most people yearn to see the glass, but that is actually part of the emotional experience of the artwork- this feeling of seeing the beautiful "ruin" and having a sense of nostalgia, you could say, for the thing that is missing. You imagine what it used to be, that's good! It's all working in the brain, there is a conversation going on. I am very moved when I see ruins, and I enjoy this vacillation between seeing the ruin in front of me, and imagining the original unblemished form. I think that within the present state of a ruin, there exists this link to past perfection, and the two of them really dance in my mind, so the ruin itself captures the passage of between what was, and what is. This sort of vibration between the actual thing and the past object is what is at play in these works.
What I am also trying to do, is open up the vocabulary of glass- to show that it can also be a tool for expressive mark-making, and we can describe other aspects of the wonderful characteristics of glass throughout its dynamic states. It can be other things as well as a solid end product of the process. In doing this investigation, I am also sending this question out to my fellow glassmakers, what else can we do with this amazing material? How else can it be used? And by using it in this way, I hope I am bringing another point of view to the dialogue of studio glass practice. I'd like to think that if someone is serious about collecting a wide range of modern glass, they would want to include one of these drawings in their collection.
Opening up the vocabulary of glass and what it is and what it can do. That sort of brings us full circle back to the work being unexpected. And amazing! Thanks so much for taking the time to answer some questions.