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Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg spotlights Studio and Contemporary art glass in major summer exhibition
Michael Glancy, Stiletto Fusion (2007). Blown glass with stiletto air-trap inclusions and engraved lenses, industrial plate glass, copper and silver. Museum Purchase with funds provided by the Collectors Circle ©Michael Glancy.

ST. PETERSBURG, FL.- With its intense sunlight and coastal views, Florida is the ideal home for contemporary glass. The region and the entire state have particularly strong examples of studio and contemporary glass in both private and public collections.

Global + Local: Studio and Contemporary Glass on Florida’s West Coast features more than 100 works from approximately 19 collections, including the Museum’s own. This spectacular exhibition opened Saturday, May 19, and continues through Sunday, October 14. The Tampa Bay Times is the media sponsor for all Museum exhibitions.

Recent MFA acquisitions of major works by Therman Statom and Michael Glancy are high points, as well as objects by internationally renowned artists Harvey Littleton, Lino Tagliapietra, Dale Chihuly, Richard Ritter, William Morris, Sonja Blomdahl, Dante Marioni, Toots Zinsky, and Yoichi Ohira.

Exceptional works by area artists Duncan McClellan, Owen Pach, and Chuck Boux also enhance the exhibition. Mr. McClellan’s new studio/gallery in downtown St. Petersburg is attracting artists from around the globe. The Chihuly Collection and the Hot Shop at The Morean Arts Center and the Zen Glass Studio likewise reflect the city’s emergence as a center for the display and creation of glass art.

The MFA, The Chihuly Collection presented by The Morean Arts Center, and The Morean Glass Studio and Hot Shop will offer one free child six to 18 years old with each paid adult from June 1-August 31, 2012. These art attractions are close to each other in downtown St. Petersburg. The MFA and The Chihuly Collection are just steps away, and the Morean is easily reached via car or the Looper, the downtown trolley. The MFA is open until 8 p.m. on Thursdays, with admission reduced to $10 from 5-8.

Global + Local will reveal the sophisticated interests of regional collectors. One collection includes several works by Australian glass artists, rarely found in this area. Another has objects by gifted Venetian artist Archimede Seguso. A third contains two works by Swedish artist Bertil Vallien, who will receive the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Glass Art Society at its June conference at the Toledo Museum of Art.

Among the other artists attracting area collectors is Jay Musler, whose work is featured on the cover of Suzanne Frantz’s influential book, Contemporary Glass: A World Survey from the Corning Museum of Glass. Judith Schaechter creates fascinating stained-glass light-boxes, largely based on her figure drawings. The Venetian artist Cristiano Bianchin has produced biomorphic works, often accompanied by crocheted covers and pads.

Artists Clare Belfrage and Matthew Curtis challenge the notion of their materials; their fused and cast vessels resemble ceramics. Others such as William Morris and Lucy Lyon make works akin to sculpture, a dominant trend in the world of studio and contemporary glass.

MFA Chief Curator Jennifer Hardin, who has curated this exhibition, noted in the brochure for Art Glass of this Century (1999) that William Morris’s Artifact: Tooth (1995) belies “the viewer’s expectations of art glass…His forms and their embellishment are based on prehistoric and Native American cultures that recall archaeological artifacts or religious objects, rather than precious, crystalline vessels.” This imaginative work is on view in Global + Local.

The MFA has long been a champion of art glass. The donation of a large collection of Steuben glass nearly 30 years ago and holdings of objects by such nineteenth- and twentieth-century luminaries as Webb, Gallé, La Farge, and Tiffany are also part of this tradition.

Since the late 1990s, the MFA has organized three significant glass exhibitions. Chihuly Across Florida: Masterworks in Glass (2004) is the best known and remains the most popular exhibition in any medium in the Museum’s history. It also inspired the development of the nearby Chihuly Collection.

The Toledo Museum of Art, which has one of the country’s finest glass collections, is credited with giving birth to the Studio Glass Movement. Harvey Littleton conducted two glass-blowing workshops there in 1962, and research scientist Dominick Labino introduced a small, inexpensive furnace, making it possible for artists to blow glass in their own studios. As a result of these successful early experiments, Littleton established a glass program at the University of Wisconsin, which produced some of the world’s most innovative glass artists, including Dale Chihuly.

The American pioneers were influenced by the small, accomplished ateliers in Venice and the Island of Murano, where Littleton conducted research and experimented with small furnaces. A small group of Italian artists will be represented in the show to provide this historical context.

Global + Local is part of a nationwide celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Studio Glass Movement. The Art Alliance for Contemporary Glass has encouraged events and exhibitions, now numbering more than 160, across the country. Thanks to the generous participation of area collectors, Global + Local places the remarkable range, diversity, and sheer beauty of art glass center stage.

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