Glass Artworks Are Wisconsin Icons, Too

By: Jane Weinke, curator of collections/registrar on February 1st, 2012

Hank Murta Adams, Head with Rods,  1980
The state of Wisconsin lays claim to many icons: the Green Bay Packers, the moniker “cheeseheads,” the tagline “America’s Dairyland,” as well as such tasty foods as bratwurst and cheese.
Another distinction belongs to the University of Wisconsin–Madison where in the fall of 1962 Harvey K. Littleton began a revolutionary hot-glass program. This might not seem to fit with the ranks of the more popular items listed above, but it rates high in the art world. Advanced technology made it feasible as well as cost effective to construct small glass furnaces for use in artists’ studios. Previously, glasswork typically was created in factories by teams, which produced multiples of each design. This evolution was exciting for artists who were eager to stretch the limits of the fluid glass medium.
Margie Jervis/Susie Krasnican, Ice Rain, 1980
During 2012, many museums across the United States will celebrate the 50th anniversary of those humble beginnings. The Woodson Art Museum is one of ten regional museums recognizing this milestone. Others are the Chazen Museum of Art in Madison, Art Institute of Chicago, Racine Art Museum, and Rockford Art Museum. The events are coordinated by the Art Alliance for Contemporary Glass, an organization whose mission is to further the development and appreciation of art made from glass.
Americans in Glass, a thrice-held, triennial exhibition inaugurated at the Woodson Art Museum in 1978, promoted the burgeoning glass movement. The first exhibition featured 110 works created by juried and invited artists, including Harvey K. Littleton, Dale Chihuly, Joel Philip Myers, and Marvin Lipofsky. Subsequent Americans in Glass exhibitions were organized in 1981 and 1984; extended national and international tours followed, garnering considerable attention for studio glass.
The Americans in Glass Legacy, on view through April 7, presents forty-three works from the Museum’s permanent collection acquired from artists participating in the three Americans in Glass exhibitions. The vessels, panels, and sculptural objects demonstrate the artists’ creativity and their abilities to manipulate the fluid medium.

There are no cheeseheads, and no one will be doing the Lambeau Leap (hopefully). But you will see the best of studio glass created during an especially creative and inventive time.


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