This month saw the opening of two new exhibits at the Museum of Glass. Anna Skibska’s understated show, “Coastal Alchemy” is juxtaposed against the over-the-top extravaganza “Look! See?” by Jen Elek and Jeremy Bert.
“Coastal Alchemy” is a collection of visual vignettes by Polish-born artist Skibska. Painter Meg Holgate augments the show with her softly blurred landscapes and poet T.s. [sic] Flock was brought on board to give the affair a feathery, literary touch. The works are meant to refer to atmospheric and environmental phenomena. The exhibit is gauzy and ephemeral. Skibska’s delicate constructions, made with hundreds of spindly segments of glass, come across as ungainly things made of chicken wire.
After breezing through “Coastal Alchemy,” one comes into a realm of brash color, flashing lights and a circuslike atmosphere. This is “Look! See?” by Elek and Bert. Elek contributed her blown glass orbs stuck together in clusters and her oblong forms arranged in a tight grid (she calls this a “blanket” formation). There are sculptures comprised of corn dog shapes all stuck together and there are dozens of colorful orbs mounted on the walls.
Bert is a neon specialist, bending glass tubes and filling them with glowing gas. He has also provided compositions of colorful marquee lights and repurposed, giant letters from old signage. As an interactive element, there is one portion of the gallery in which museum visitors can move these letters around and even wear them to become a lit-up, walking, talking alphabet. “Look! See?” is pop art; happily sappy in its dual purpose of wallowing in popular imagery at the same time that said imagery is criticized.
Every item in “Look! See?” is sweet, sweet candy for the eye. There is a collection of “Human Heads” that consist of glass domes by Elek. Bert has outfitted them with light bulb eyes and neon mouths that constantly shift from a smile to a frown.
“Signal” is a brilliant collage – the perfect merger of the talents of both artists. A blue glass form – not unlike a car muffleris set next to a set of neon tubes that form plaid stripes. There is also a dense grid of colorful carnival lights that are constantly blinking in random patterns. These are reflected in chrome-plated spheres.
Much of Elek’s contribution to the show was actually made in the museum’s hot shop. “The work feels like it’s at home here,” Elek asserted at the Feb. 22 opening of the show.
“Coastal Alchemy” runs through Sept. 28 and “Look! See?” runs through January of next year. For further information visit http://www.museumofglass.org.