In 2007, The Corning Museum of Glass launched an exhibition series called Masters of %%Studio Glass%% with an exhibition of work by Joel Philip Myers and Steven I. Weinberg, two highly regarded studio glass innovators.
Myers: Colorful Blown Work
Joel Philip Myers’ work explores vibrant color, as well as lack of color, in painterly, blown vessels that acquire depth and density through the layering of pieces of glass (or shards) onto the surface during the blowing process.
Born in 1934, Myers came to glass in a roundabout way. Trained in advertising design, he began to work with ceramics in his mid-twenties. Studying first in Copenhagen, he completed his B.F.A. and M.F.A. degrees at Alfred University, about 50 miles west of Corning, NY.
Like many artists of his generation, Myers came into glass from ceramics, and he pretty much came into it by accident. While at Alfred, he was offered the job of director of design at Blenko Glass, a manufacturer of colorful tableware headquartered in Milton, WV. This was his introduction to glass, and in his seven years there, he designed more than 400 products, all blown in Blenko’s bright palette.
Self-Taught Artist Teaches Others
Aware of the Toledo glass seminars conducted by Littleton and Labino, Myers became interested in blowing glass himself. He developed his techniques—teaching himself at Blenko—in relative isolation.
In 1970, Myers left Blenko to set up a glassblowing program at Illinois State University at Normal, where he taught for nearly 30 years. The program at Illinois became one of the best-known in the country, and Myers, one of the most respected teachers in the field. In addition to his teaching, Myers built a successful studio practice, participating in solo and group exhibitions until 1991.
Then, for four years, Myers did not exhibit or make saleable work so that he could take the time to experiment with new ideas. In 1995, he introduced new work and in 1997, he retired from teaching.
Over the past 10 years, Myers, who lives in Marietta, PA, and Copenhagen, has focused on making and exhibiting new series of vessels that are as radically different from his earlier work as they are from each other.
Weinberg: Transparent Kiln-Cast Sculpture
In contrast to Myers’ blown, colorful work, Steven Weinberg focuses on the optical, transparent, and reflective qualities of glass in his solid, kiln-cast sculptures.
Born in 1954, Weinberg represents the second generation of studio glass artists. In the early 1970s, Weinberg also studied ceramics at Alfred, but soon switched over to glass, working with studio glass pioneer Andre Billeci, and the Scottish artist Eric Hilton, who had come to Alfred from London’s Royal College of Art.
Weinberg found an important mentor in Hilton, who encouraged him to explore techniques and approaches other than the free-form style of glassblowing that was so popular at the time. With the help of Hilton, Weinberg began exploring cutting and grinding glass.
Weinberg chose to pursue his graduate studies at the Rhode Island School of Design so that he could work with Dale Chihuly, who headed the program there. Chihuly was another valued mentor who taught Weinberg how to be a professional artist.
Building a Studio Practice
Upon his graduation in 1979, Weinberg began to build his studio practice, and in his %%case%%, he literally built it, starting with the development and construction of his studio equipment. Although popular now, Weinberg’s interest in kiln-casting and in cutting and polishing glass was quite uncommon in American studio glass of the late 1970s.
Over the 30 years that Weinberg has been working with glass, he has made a living as an independent artist and he has worked as a designer for various companies. In the past decade, Weinberg, who lives and works in Providence, RI, has explored new directions in his work, which includes his recent series of cast glass “buoys” and life studies. He also has begun to teach and exhibit in China, a country that is just beginning to appreciate and train studio glass artists.
Both Myers and Weinberg work with abstraction, but they could not be more different in how they choose to approach the glass, which of its qualities they emphasize, and how they conceptualize and construct their work.
In Myers’ vessels, it is the fluidity of the material and the visually warm surfaces, made with color or acid-etching, that are his most identifiable characteristics. For Weinberg, it is the cold, frozen quality of the material and hard, %%stone%%-like surfaces that make his sculptures so distinctive.
Both artists share a love and respect for glass and the glassmaking process, and their work reflects that passion. Both are deserving of the title, “Master of %%Studio Glass%%” as masters of their respective techniques, and for the development and advancement of those techniques by working with the material in increasingly complex ways.