The Akron Art Museum
will open the worlds largest public collection of glass by the celebrated artist Paul Stankard, who is known internationally for his innovative rethinking of the traditional glass paperweight. The collection is a gift of Mike and Annie Belkin of Northeast Ohio.
Stankard is simultaneously a master glass artist and an astonishing realist sculptor. His renditions of plants and insects seem like nature, miniaturized and preserved inside crystal-clear glass globes and cubes. Closer inspection will often reveal mythical and metaphorical motifs nestled amid the natural elements. Turning over one of the glass spheres, and intermingled with the roots of the plants, one can find masks, tiny words or root people that to Stankard represent the earth spirit.
With attention to the specifics of each blossom, leaf, insect or berry, his flameworked glass objects possess strong illusionist appeal. "I want to give the glass organic credibility. I use detail to emphasize the delicate," Stankard said. "I want people to go beyond the wizardry of whether it is real or glass. It is about respect for living things."
Over a 50-year career in glass, Stankards work has been widely exhibited and collected. His glass sculptures are in numerous public collections, including the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C. and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.
Director and CEO of the Akron Art Museum Mitchell Kahan exulted, this gift is an amazing fulfillment of the museums long interest in the studio glass movement through many temporary exhibitions. We now have a permanent commemoration of this key development in American art. He added, This breathtaking collection is also a testament to the close relationship of artist and patron, who have worked hand in hand for years.
Since his early childhood in North Attleboro, Mass., Stankard (b. 1943) has always enjoyed strolling through the woods. He graduated from Salem Vocational Technical Institute (now Salem Community College) where he received a diploma in scientific glassblowing, which includes making beakers and test tubes. While fabricating glass equipment for use in the chemical industry, he became fascinated by the tradition of South Jersey glassmaking and its "crown jewel," the paperweight.
In 1969 he began making his first paperweights, which were seen by Reese Palley, a gallery owner in Atlantic City. Recognizing Stankard's extraordinary craftsmanship, Palley gave the artist his first show, a sellout, and urged him to devote himself full time to his art. In 1972, with the encouragement of his wife, Patricia, Stankard decided to leave the field of industry to pursue artistic glass working full-time.
Since then he has enjoyed continued artistic success, resulting from a deep commitment to technical excellence, a dynamic aesthetic sense of composition, a strong conceptual focus and an entrepreneurial spirit.
A solo exhibition of Stankards work at the Akron Art Museum opened in 2002. He has had 35 public exhibitions since 1996, including Glass! Glorious Glass!, Smithsonians Renwick Gallery, Washington, DC, 1999 and Paul Stankard: A Floating World, 40 Years of an American Master in Glass, a major Museum of Arts and Design in New York City retrospective that eventually toured the country in 2004. Publications about Stankard include Paul J. Stankard: Homage to Nature by Ulysses Grant Dietz and No Green Berries or Leaves: The Creative Journey of an Artist in Glass by Paul J. Stankard.
He is currently represented by several galleries including Hawk Galleries, Jane Sauer Gallery, Ken Saunders Galleries and Schantz Galleries.
Over the past 30 years, Mike and Annie Belkin have amassed the largest holding of Stankards work in the world, over 300 works since their first purchase in May 1981. Mike Belkin first met the artist in June 1981 and has been instrumental in the artists career as friend, patron and advisor. Over the years, the Belkins have lent their collection to various institutions and have given works by Stankard to over 20 national and international institutions that have shown interest in the artists work.
The Belkins largest gift of Stankard glass was made to the Akron Art Museum at the end of 2010. It comprises 64 glass sculptures and paperweights.
Giving away a portion of their collection has not been easy, but the sense of loss has been balanced by knowing that we are able to share with the thousands of museum guests the beauty and the artists magic that we have enjoyed every day for years, said Mike Belkin. We hope that everyone will experience the same pleasure and share in the same joy and fascination that we have during our time as curators of these significant works of art.