The Glass Virus
Marc Barreda
Glass Artist or Artist Who Works With Glass… A Self-Reflective,(Auto-) Didactic Statement about Artist Statements.
2014

Did artists write statements in the past? What was their concern with their position in the art world and how did that manifest?

It seems today that the main subject of artistic writing lies in the realm of the artist statement, that we are clearly and specifically trying to define our position in the art world mostly through self-reflective, didactic writing. The idea is that an artist describes his or her work and motives as a sort of cover letter to the world when applying for acceptance and understanding.

Versus just writing! The manifesto seems to be the other model, historically: writing that takes a position rather than attempting to discover one. The manifesto indicated belief, trajectory and orientation. The artist statement seems to try and identify a point on a map. And the content of this map is comprised from status and marketing.

I understand that these are gross generalizations, but in discussing a center point along the spectrum, I feel I am not too far off. Artistic writing currently seems to be driven by insecurity or rather an attempt at creating a security in the generation of a unique identity or a recognizable position that establishes worth or value on a number of platforms. It takes the “I” from “idea” and diminishes the rest.

For the Glass World, this situation inflames an already challenging identity crisis. At the root of the problem is the craft question. What does the landscape look like when transitioning between craft and art? How does one fit into the other? How do they advance, limit or diminish each other? What is a Glass Artist? What is an Artist who works with glass? And who cares?

We do, us and a few other entities that seem to matter.

How do I define these terms? Well, I think I can best do it in a self-reflective, didactic manner. I am one of these artists who are embedded with a material and the craft surrounding that material. How do I identify?

I am a glass artist.

I work intensively with the medium of glass in direct association with the history and traditions with which it has been worked for a long time. I have trained in the craftsmanship associated with the material and my work as a glass artist is in line with the consecutive histories to which I remain attached. I work with the questions of functional design and aesthetic and am inspired by the mastery and proficiency with the material achieved by my forebears. However, I am liberated specifically by the last fifty years. The Studio Glass movement is my foundation offering me unprecedented access to a material and processes formerly limited to factory and industrial settings and fostering the use of the material as an expressive medium where I can act as designer and maker.

I am a glass artist.

In expanding the scope of my practice, I have found the exploration of the material qualities of glass to inspire my work. Moving beyond craft and history I have found that in fact, “the medium is the message.” The study of optics, transparency, stress and fracture and flexibility, liquid versus solid all found the metaphors on which I base my expression. And, it is in this realm that I explore the mystery and the magic of this material that is consistently exhibited and appreciable from the earliest pieces of Mesopotamia to the freshest Fusion Draw. It is this exploration of the quantum qualities of glass that incite my work as a Glass Artist.

I am an Artist Who Works With Glass.

I work in a great range of materials, mixed media installations, selectively including or excluding glass depending on the demands of the work. These demands can reside outside of the material explorations and craft associations. I can use glass because it represents a memory, an experience, and an emotion; or because it facilitates a means or technology. I am an artist first, I am a sculptor I can use glass the way that Roni Horn or Louise Bourgeois did, like Lyonel Feininger and Chris Burden.

I am an Artist Who Works With Glass, so put deliberately to distance myself from the Glass Artists. Why? Because I want to distinguish myself from work I don’t appreciate. Because I want to be unique, I don’t want to be pigeonholed or grouped en masse. Because I feel limited by that history, I want to break down boundaries and assumptions.

Gosh, I feel like a teenager.

Maybe that is the point? The identity crisis, the divisiveness, the insecurity comes from an immature movement dominated by a powerfully aged material history. Maybe the questioning, the pinpointing, the finger pointing should be embraced for our own emancipation and maturation? The definitions, derisions, and disaffiliations can become more than insults and cliques.

Maybe we should look at whom we are writing these definitions for, these statements. In School nowadays, we learn to write them for our own development but very quickly it turns to a duty we must remit for the institutions the juries, etc. Why else are they written and where else do they make sense? Perhaps they are of no use beyond personal development and PR…unless we expand their length to beyond 500 words and plant our feet more firmly in the ground.


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