Fuller show sheds light on glass art
Judging by the fantastic response to Dale Chihuly’s show at the Museum of Fine Arts last year, glass is becoming more and more popular with art lovers.
It’s also more popular with artists as a medium, said Perry Price, curator for the Fuller Craft Museum’s new show by glass artist Dan Dailey, Chihuly’s first graduate student at the Rhode Island School of Design in Providence.
Brockton’s Fuller Craft Museum is hosting a retrospective show of Dailey’s works from the last 25 years in a themed exhibition that concentrates on explaining the artist’s creative process. “Dan Dailey: Working Method’’ includes examples of his drawings and illustrations for his pieces, technical drawings for their production, and a video to demonstrate the process.
The show also marks the 50th anniversary of the American studio glass movement, Price said. The movement began when a patron endowed the first effort to take glass art making out of the industrial setting and put it into the individual artist’s studio.
“Glass has always been on the radar at Fuller,’’ Price said.
Some years after that first studio effort, Chihuly set up a glass-making program at Rhode Island School of Design, and Dailey discovered there the allure of a medium whose beauty and accessibility resonate with audiences. “It’s such a crowd-pleaser of a material,’’ Dailey said recently from his studio in Kensington, N.H.
But while glass may be easy on the eyes, it’s hard to produce.
Glass art remains an involved, many-stage process, still relying on traditional industrial techniques to realize the artist’s conceptions. That’s the idea behind the “Working Method’’ show, Price said. “The show draws from a variety of types of work he’s made in his career’’ from vases and floor lamps to icons drawn from mythology, “but what we wanted to do with this exhibit is to show Dailey’s method,’’ Price said. “What’s remained constant is that it all begins with drawings.’’
Dailey works out his ideas in a series of drawings of increasing detail, then draws the images in actual size, followed by technical schematics for his highly complicated assemblages of metal and glass, some of them very large. The drawings, including notations of color formulas, hang in the “hot shop,’’ the workplace where glass is blown, Price said.
“Drawings are the basis for every piece,’’ Dailey said, by phone. “Drawings communicate the concept. It starts out visualized in two dimensions and is made in three dimensions.’’
After schematic drawings and production plans come hand-crafted three-dimensional models. While Dailey draws and imagines in his studio, the glass is blown in Seattle. “You need furnaces, you need equipment to shape glass when it’s cold, to grind and polish it,’’ he said of the technical stages and requirements. “You mimic what’s available at a smaller scale. This becomes your palette.’’
The show explains and illustrates that process, Price said, by pairing each work with the drawings and models used in planning.
After sampling media in art school in Philadelphia, Dailey said he fell in love with glass while working under Chihuly. “I just got a taste for it. I focused totally on glass. That was a breakthrough for me. It was a lucky time for me to be there. [Chihuly] made me focus in a way I wouldn’t have before.’’
Dailey said he’s making “icons,’’ expressive images, rather than representations. The history of art sometimes inspires ideas. One series was based on the human roots of ancient mythological figures. “Human traits and attitudes were layered onto the gods’’ such as Zeus and Poseidon, he said. His imaginative glass creations layered them differently.
For another, he created an icon of Philadelphia, drawing on subjects like Ben Franklin, Independence Hall, and Quakers for inspiration.
The exhibit’s 21 pieces vary in size from a table-top vase to a tall floor lamp. The Fuller exhibit offers a pleasing density, Dailey said, filling the wall space with drawings.
Dailey will be at the Fuller June 3 to speak (12:30 p.m.) and for a reception (2 p.m.).
Robert Knox can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.