Galleries : Blown Away: A Glass Artist Visits The Vineyard
Libby Johnson, manager of Martha's Vineyard Glassworks, beams as she recalls a recent meeting with a new customer. "She came in and her mouth dropped. She just said, 'Oh my God,' and I heard her go all the way around the gallery just squealing, she was so excited."
Nestled off of State Road in North Tisbury, the Glassworks is a surprise and a delight to its visitors: the gallery is not only home to a beautiful collection of glass art, but also to a glass-blowing studio. Upon entrance, customers can browse a collection of elegant hand-blown cups and vases, and across the room watch a handful of artists create the "piece of the day" in front of a furnace with several intricate tools and honed techniques.
Mark Weiner, an acclaimed glass artist known in the field for his talent and affable manner, runs the gallery, which he opened 15 years ago with co-owners Andrew Magdanz and Susan Shapiro. The facility is maintained by a group of artists and assistants who are united in their passion for the genre. Ms. Johnson and her colleagues are equipped to answer questions that range from the processes of glass blowing and the materials used to the functions of every machine visible in the open studio. One assistant observes that she learns something new every day she works at Glassworks. "It's a constant stream of knowledge," she says.
Every summer, Glassworks holds four exhibitions in its newly renovated upstairs gallery: two in July and two in August. Starting this Sunday is their second show of the summer. The gallery will feature the work of Gary Genetti, an internationally acclaimed glass artist whose high-quality work is noted for its intricate details. Mr. Weiner and Mr. Genetti have known each other for several years through the field, and they organized the upcoming exhibition when they were both attending a craft show in Baltimore.
Ms. Johnson notes how Mr. Genetti's work in sandblasting complements the other pieces in the gallery: "It really fit a niche that we hadn't had in shows, so we thought it would be a very good match." She explains how Mr. Genetti blows glass vessels that are composed of layered glass. Once the vessels are cooled, he draws a design over the glass, hand cuts it out with a knife and blasts away the glass, revealing colors underneath.
Genetti was introduced to glassblowing during an apprenticeship 30 years ago, which he took soon after graduating from the University of Wisconsin with a degree in Fine Arts and emphasis in sculpture and graphics. He was immediately drawn to the medium. "My first attraction was to the beauty of glass, color and light," he notes, and the "ability to create an atmospheric canvas for my artwork. I am able to use [the art] as an expression of my life and the environment I grew up in." Mr. Genetti's pieces usually depict the interplay of animals and nature in a background infused with light-emphasizing colors. Though his drawings on the pieces are influenced by his education in graphics, his skills in the craft of blowing glass are self-taught. Over the years, Mr. Genetti has learned myriad techniques by visiting different glassblowers. Yet his pieces always come out differently even when after applying the same methods, he observes, which "leads to a unique approach."
Rather than creating functional pieces, Mr. Genetti prefers glass shapes that are reminiscent of Greek and Roman pottery, which results in products that are more concerned with art than their utility: "My aim is to make something that is complete in itself," he says. The result is a masterpiece of colors and detailed designs that are aesthetically pleasing even before one can appreciate the handcrafted glass on which they lie. The pieces are not only mesmerizing, but extremely meditative as well. As Mr. Genetti describes, "I try to recreate the quality of atmosphere and peaceful imagery, [as well as] the interaction between animal figures. Drawing is a way of seeing the world and becoming sensitive to it that I find very enlivening."
When asked how long a piece usually takes to complete, Mr. Genetti quips, "Thirty years and a few weeks." He explains, "What you're seeing takes thirty years to learn how to do and there are a few weeks of work in [each] large piece."
An opening reception will be held for Gary Genetti on July 20, 5-7 pm, at Martha's Vineyard Glassworks.
Samantha McCoy, a student at Cornell University, is a frequent contributor to The Times.