Dante Marioni: Form + Pattern in Glass

Dante Marioni: Form + Pattern in Glass

Dante Marioni burst onto the international glass scene at age 19 with a signature style that has been described as the purest of classical forms executed in glass by an American glassblower. His amphoras, vases, and ewers are derived from Greek and Etruscan prototypes, yet they are imaginatively and sometimes whimsically reinterpreted. His impossibly elongated, sinuous shapes are made with bright and saturated contrasting colors.

Marioni’s sophisticated objects evoke the rich tradition of classical Mediterranean pottery and bronzes, and of Marioni’s training in centuries-old Venetian glassblowing techniques with some of the greatest masters in contemporary glass.

The son of American studio glass pioneer Paul Marioni, Dante Marioni was raised in a family of artists that includes his well-known uncles, one a painter and the other, a performance artist.

Marioni first held a blowpipe at age nine. By the time he was 15 years old, he was attending a Seattle high school specializing in the arts and working after school at one of the city’s first cooperative hotshops and showrooms, The Glass Eye. Although he loved glassblowing, making production studio glass felt limiting.

“The prevailing aesthetic [in American studio glass in the 1970s] was loose, goopy, and free-form,” he observed in a recent interview. “I had no interest in that.” One afternoon, he watched Benjamin Moore, another studio glass pioneer, make perfectly symmetrical, on-center glass forms inspired by Venetian glass. It had a dramatic and lasting effect on the young Marioni, who remembers, “I didn’t realize that anybody could work that way.”

Dante Marioni

Moore soon became his mentor and friend. “I worked with him any chance I got and I still use his studio to make really large pieces,” Marioni says. He also learned from other well-known studio glass pioneers, such as Fritz Dreisbach and Richard Marquis, who is widely recognized for his unique interpretations of Venetian decorative techniques.

In 1983, Moore introduced Marioni to Lino Tagliapietra, the legendary maestro who traveled from Murano to teach young American glassblowers at Pilchuck Glass School in Washington state. “I took classes with Lino through the 1990s, and because of him, I received a classical education in glass. I never missed an opportunity to be around him.”

In 1987, at age 19, Marioni had his first sell-out gallery show in Seattle that featured his Whoppers. This series introduced his signature, monumental forms and two-color style, and earned him a prestigious Louis Comfort Tiffany Fellowship.

After two decades of experimentation, Marioni now creates a diverse range of tall, iconic forms with surface treatments such as murrine (mosaic) and reticello (air bubbles within a net pattern) in an ever-changing array of vibrant colors.

His most recent work, he says, “is really something new.” A year ago, “something was simmering in the back of my head and I took a year off,” he explains. “Never in all my life have I done that.”

The result is his Leaf series, sculptural vessels that are inspired by the leaf. “Not the leaf in nature, but the stylized leaf forms found in the decorative arts,” Marioni notes.

The new vessels are beguilingly intricate. “The Leaves are not inspired by an outside source; they are forms that I imagine,” he says. While his earlier work was about “form, conceived and executed from a design point of view,” his Leaf series is about the exploration of pattern.

Published on October 3, 2011