Glass Gets its Due at Two Wisconsin Art Exhibitions

Artists manipulate glass – and other materials – to evoke the elements in two exhibitions on view now.


[alert type=white ]Through Feb. 3 — John Michael Kohler Arts Center, Sheboygan[/alert]
Virgil Marti, detail of installation            

Stretched-out soda bottles. An old tire covered in prismatic chrome paint. Slightly distorted plexiglass mirrors that reflect a fun-house version of reality. These are just a few of the things you’ll find in “Hothouse,” an exhibition of works by Virgil Marti.

Marti says he’s interested in objects that don’t work the way they normally would. He transforms antlers into chandeliers, ottomans into sculptural pedestals. And he’s always repositioning the works, creating new juxtapositions and contexts for them.

The center of the exhibition is a terrarium that Marti has kept in his studio since the 1970s. A simple glass vessel filled with potting soil and a creeping plant, it would be perfectly ordinary if it weren’t perched atop a tangle of tree branches spray-painted a robotic silver. Terrariums are microcosms, and this work can be seen as one of Marti’s studio. A place where everyday elements – earth, water, air – are always in flux. A place of innovation and transformation. A hothouse.

When you’re tired of the cold and looking for a burst of white-hot inspiration, this is the show to see.

“Fore and Aft: a Vitreous View of Time”

[alert type=white ]Through March 31 Museum of Wisconsin Art, West Bend[/alert]

Works by three glass artists – Eoin Breadon, Jeremy Popelka and Beth Lipman – are on view at MOWA.

The artists all look to history for inspiration. Breadon, who teaches at UW-River Falls, incorporates traditional Irish craftsmanship and folkloric iconography into his richly pigmented, often figurative sculptures. Popelka uses ancient techniques to create strikingly modern glassworks, stretching slabs of molten glass into long canes and shaping them into large, multi-layered vessels. And Lipman is interested in re-creating and capturing specific moments in time.

One of the standout works in the show is Lipman’s “InEarth” (pictured above), a roughly 10-foot by 10-foot assemblage that elicits oohs and ahhs from viewers who wander into the gallery. Fluted glass columns teeter atop an intricately carved table. Strikingly lifelike depictions of flora, including species of plants that have long since gone extinct, spill over the side of the table. And underneath it, half-broken vases and other vessels remind us of a long-ago abandoned dinner party or still life. The mixed-media work is mostly made of glass. But it looks like nothing so much as an explosion of ice, arrested just before it began to melt.

“Through the Looking Glass” appears in the January 2019 issue of Milwaukee Magazine.

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Lindsey Anderson covers culture for Milwaukee Magazine. Before joining the MilMag team she worked as an editor at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago and wrote freelance articles for ArtSlant and Eater.