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The Corning Museum of Glass Commissions Large-Scale, Site-Specific Work by Spencer Finch

Press Center

October 4, 2019
“The Secret Life of Glass” will be Installed in 2020

The Corning Museum of Glass (CMoG) today announced the commission of a new work by renowned contemporary artist Spencer Finch (b. 1962, USA), whose multidisciplinary practice explores the beauty and complexity of everyday moments. The site-specific work, which will be on view at the Museum beginning in the first half of 2020, will be Finch’s first in fused glass. Created for the window wall on CMoG’s West Bridge, connecting the Contemporary Art + Design Wing with the Museum’s science exhibits in the Innovation Center, The Secret Life of Glass comprises an artistic translation of temperature readings taken of a glass window at the Museum on a winter day.

 “Glass is a common material in our day-to-day lives, but we usually don’t give it a second thought. Much attuned to the Museum’s mission, The Secret Life of Glass compels us to stop to consider the power and the presence of this incredible material,” said Karol Wight, President and Executive Director of CMoG. “We are proud to announce this new work by Spencer Finch, which will be the Museum’s first site-specific commission since the opening of our Contemporary Art + Design Wing in 2015.”

To create this work, the Museum captured thermal images of the exterior glass curtain wall joining the Museum’s Contemporary Art + Design Wing, designed by architect Thomas Phifer, and Innovations Center over the course of one winter day. In examining the data, Finch honed in on an image captured at 4:30 in the afternoon, in which the range of temperatures experienced by the glass formed the pattern of a wave. Using this fleeting afternoon moment as his starting point, Finch translated the temperatures by assigning colors—inspired by the Sennelier palette favored by Matisse—to each four-degree temperature shift. The result is a poetic interpretation of “the secret life” of window glass as it is exposed to the interplay of sunlight and air on that winter’s afternoon. The finished 12- by 28-foot work, comprised of 16 (3- by 7-foot) fused glass panels set into aluminum framework, will be installed just inside the windows whose “secret life” they reveal. 

As described by Finch in his project proposal: “With this work, I am using the decorative elements of glass to describe the technical aspects and physical properties of the material. By considering the transparency of glass, one of its most basic characteristics, and the ways transparency masks a complex interaction with the environment, I am trying to engage and celebrate the complexity of the material as well as the wonder of human perception.”

Finch has worked with innovative fabricator Bullseye Studio of Bullseye Glass Co. in Portland, Oregon on The Secret Life of Glass. Bullseye produced the glass required for the large-scale panels, which comprise products from the company’s Special Production line and many “striker” glasses that reveal incredible coloring only after fired in the kiln or fused together. In addition to fabricating the laminated panels, Bullseye Studio is also designing and engineering the artwork’s support frame.

“Translating the concepts for The Secret Life of Glass into kilnformed glass is an honor. As fabricators for Spencer Finch and his team, we are proud to provide custom solutions to the technical challenges posed by this site-specific installation,” said Tom Jacobs, Project Manager at Bullseye Studio.

The Corning Museum of Glass is committed to showcasing the breadth and depth of creativity by artists who have pushed the boundaries of glass as an artistic material. Finch’s commission join glass works by contemporary artists such as Larry Bell and Liza Lou, on display alongside studio glass masters such as Lino Tagliapietra, Mary Ann “Toots” Zynsky, and Stanislav Libenský and Jaroslava Brychtová. The Museum’s collecting approach, which embraces works by contemporary artists both new to glass and well-versed in the medium and artists from the studio glass tradition, provides visitors and scholars with a broad look at glass in the larger contemporary art dialogue.


Spencer Finch (American, b. 1962) works in a variety of media including sculpture, installation, and works on paper. With a scientific approach to gathering data and a poetic sensibility, his works filter perception through the lens of nature, history, literature, and personal experience. He is best known for installations dealing with the elusive concepts of memory and perception created through the careful study of an area’s natural luminescence, which is then reproduced through artificial means. Previous works in glass include A Certain Slant of Light (2014-2015), a site-specific installation of 365 colored squares at the Morgan Library in New York, NY, which illuminated the birthdays of notables including Galileo and Emily Dickinson; and The River That Flows Both Ways (2009), a 120 x 12-foot permanent installation on The High Line, New York, NY of 700 colored panes of glass representing the water conditions on the Hudson River in a single day. Finch's work can be found in the collections of the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, D.C.; the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, GA; the Museum für Moderne Kunst in Frankfurt, Germany; the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, IL, and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, NY.

About The Corning Museum of Glass

The Corning Museum of Glass is the foremost authority on the art, history, science, and design of glass. It 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 and on the road), 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, with 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. Children and teens, 17 and under, receive free admission.