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Corning Museum of Glass Unveils 2012 Rakow Commission by Danish Artist Steffen Dam

Corning Museum of Glass Unveils 2012 Rakow Commission by Danish Artist Steffen Dam

October 19, 2012
The artist’s most ambitious work to date, Flower Block is a grouping of 24 glass blocks in the style of his well-known series of glass panels.

The Corning Museum of Glass today unveiled its 2012 Rakow Commission work: Flower %%Block%% by Danish artist Steffen Dam. The artist’s most ambitious work to date, Flower %%Block%% is a grouping of 24 glass blocks in the style of his well-known series of glass panels, each containing the artist’s interpretation of parts of a flower.

Dam’s glass blocks, panels and jars invoke fossilized biological and botanical slides used in scientific research - but the function of the ambiguous specimens trapped in glass is aesthetic, not scholarly.

The artist learned about the natural world from his paternal grandfather, whose library was filled with illustrated volumes on biology, natural sciences, and flora and fauna. Dam’s initial training as a toolmaker is obvious in the refined craftsmanship of his cut, drilled and polished glass works.

“Dam’s work is very much about the exploration of process and material,” says Tina Oldknow, curator of modern glass at the Museum. “His work is a great fit for our collection which spans the full history of glassmaking. It relates to the history of botanical-inspired expressions in glass, but it’s also very contemporary.”

Dam’s sculptures have been compared to the lampworked flowers and sea creatures of Leopold and Rudolf Blaschka and the naturalist drawings of Ernst Haeckel. However, unlike these well-known figures of science, Dam’s work does not imitate the natural world.  He creates his specimens in his jars and cabinets of curiosity from memory; embracing spontaneity and unexpected results.  As Dam says, “My cylinders contain nothing that exists in the ocean, my specimens are plausible but not from this world, my plants are only to be found in my compost heap, and my flowers are still unnamed.”

Dam’s work is found in public and private collections throughout the world, including the Glasmuseet, Ebeltoft, Denmark; the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe, Hamburg, Germany; Museum of Art and Design, New York, NY; the Palm Springs Art Museum, Palm Springs, CA; Seven Bridges Foundation, Greenwich, CT; The Anneberg Collections, Nykøbing, Denmark; The Danish Arts Foundation, Denmark; The Danish Museum of Decorative Art, Copenhagen, Denmark; and The National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design, Oslo, Norway. His awards include The Crafts Prize of 1879 awarded in 1995, The Ole Haslund Art Prize awarded in 1996, and The Hempel Glass Prize awarded in 2002.

Inaugurated in 1986, the Rakow Commission is awarded to professional artists whose work is not yet represented in the Museum’s collection. The Commission supports new works of art in glass by encouraging emerging or established artists to venture into new areas that they might otherwise be unable to explore because of financial limitations. It is made possible through the generosity of the late Dr. and Mrs. Leonard S. Rakow, Fellows, friends, and benefactors of the Museum. 

Each commissioned work is added to the Museum’s permanent collection and is displayed publicly, in the Museum’s Modern Glass Gallery, for the first time during the Museum’s Annual Seminar on Glass. Dam was present to unveil Flower %%Block%%. His Rakow Commission lecture will be available to view on cmog.org at a future date.

About The Corning Museum of Glass

The Corning Museum of Glass is home to the world’s most important collection of glass, including the finest examples of glassmaking spanning 3,500 years. Live glassblowing demonstrations (offered at the Museum, on the road, and at sea on Celebrity Cruises) bring the material to life. Daily Make Your Own Glass experiences at the Museum enable visitors to create work in a state-of-the-art glassmaking studio. The campus in Corning includes a year-round glassmaking school, The Studio, and the Rakow Research Library, the world’s preeminent collection of materials on the art and history of glass. Located in the heart of the Finger Lakes Wine Country of New York State, the Museum is open daily, year-round. Kids and teens, 17 and under, receive free admission. www.cmog.org.

The Museum recently opened a 100,000-square-foot Contemporary Art + Design Wing, designed by Thomas Phifer. The new wing includes a new 26,000-square-foot contemporary art gallery building, as well as one of the world’s largest facilities for glassblowing demonstrations and live glass design sessions.