Star-Bulletin Features

Sunday, June 2, 2002


Alan Ness's untitled piece is a cast glass sculpture.

Fragility that lasts

From hand-blown bottles to beach
debris, a new art exhibit captures
the timeless allure of glass

By joleen oshiro

Ancient Egyptians called glass "the stone that flows." Indeed, glass is a study in contradictions: fluid yet impermeable, fragile yet hard.

The Egyptian definition alludes not only to glass's permeability, but to its allure, which rivals that of a gemstone. One would be hard pressed to find anyone not drawn to the beauty of glass, whether a collector appreciating the reflective dazzle of a hand-blown vase, or a child gathering the frosty green fragments of old bottles worn smooth by sand and sea.

The Hot Glass Hui is hoping to nurture that aesthetic appreciation with an all-glass exhibition now on view at the ARTS at Marks Garage.

"Water Drop," at top, is a solid formed glass piece by Kathy McClelland Cowen.

"There are perfume bottles to bells to broken glass to sculpture," said hui president Rick Mills. "We want to provide a broader awareness of what's possible with glass."

The show is somewhat monumental in that it's been 17 years since Hawaii's last exhibition devoted solely to glass. Yet it's just one piece of the hui's larger goal to develop the glass arts locally. The group also offers workshops, educational programs and sales events, and aims to open a public-access glass studio.

Right now, "you'll find us literally under a tent behind Linekona (the Academy Art Center)," Mills said. There, novice glass enthusiasts and devoted practitioners develop their craft in a makeshift classroom-studio.

"Poha Platter," by Misato Mortara, is blown glass.

"Until 30 years ago, glass wasn't even included as part of art programs," Mills said. "Today, there's an explosion of interest in glass on the mainland, but only a dozen or so public-access studios across the country."

With Hawaii's burgeoning interest in glass art, the hui's goal of providing such a space becomes even more pressing.

'New Glass by Hawaii Artists'

Presented by the Hot Glass Hui
Where: The ARTS at Marks Garage, 1159 Nuuanu Ave.
When: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday
Admission: Free
Call: 521-2903
Note: Membership fee for the Hot Glass Hui is $30 general and $15 for students. Call 956-5258 for information on membership and upcoming classes.

Before the hui was formed, producing glass art in Hawaii was impossible unless you were a student with access to a school studio, said Mills, an art instructor with the University of Hawaii-Manoa's glass program for 14 years.

"I've watched all the tried-and-true students -- the ones we awarded all the scholarships and grants to -- leave Hawaii to enrich other communities," Mills said. "There was no place for devoted glass artists or weekend warriors to practice their art."

The block head sculpture at right is called "The Space Between," a kiln cast work by Kerry Gilifillan.

Frustrated with Hawaii's talent drain, a group of former UH glass students and local glass artists got organized in 1998 and began building new equipment and offering classes. Today, more than 50 strong, they continue to contribute time and energy to the cause.

"Our members come from different backgrounds -- academics like myself, novices, students and professionals," Mills said.

"Many art forms are solitary," he said. "With glass, you can work together. There's a strong sense of camaraderie and cooperation."

Jennifer Chow's drums are titled "The Other." They're mixed media with enameled blown glass.

On a deeper, philosophical, even spiritual, level, "there's something contemplative about glass. The medium asks fundamental questions about materiality, with its almost alchemic transformation from inert minerals to transparent liquid.

"Our attraction to glass is almost innate. Deep in our subconscious is the connection to fluidity and immateriality."

"Medusa," blown glass suspended like a mobile, is the work of Ruben Tapia.

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