Meet the Artist: Tom Patti

Corning Museum of Glass, June 12, 2008

TINA OLDKNOW: I want to give you a little %%bit%% of an introduction to Tom, who he is and what he does. Tom is a widely respected artist and studio glass pioneer who has devoted much of his career to researching different formulations of glasses and hot forming techniques. He earned his BFA degree in 1967 and his MFA in 1969 at Pratt Institute in New York City. He also did post graduate study at the New School for Social Research in New York. He is a fellow of the American Craft Council and a Massachusetts Living Treasure.

Tom was drawn to glass in the 1960’s while designing houses made out of inflatable plastic for the developing world. Though he began working with glass in the early years of the studio glass movement, Tom choose industrial sheet glass as the material for his art rather than glass blowing and he began to explore industrial and architectural glass as a sculptural medium. Over the last 35 years, Tom has used glass to build and define spaces that transform surface, light and color. He fuses layers of glass with bubbles and other spatial elements into unique works. In recent years he has dramatically shifted the scale of his work from complex small scale objects, meant to be contemplated at close proximity to illusionistic environments made of large architecturally scaled glass. As in his sculptures, he combines fused layers of glass, spatial elements and gradations of color and reflections to manipulate new modes of perception.

His recent architectural commissions include projects at Roosevelt Station in Queens. He has also done projects for the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, the Mint Museum of Craft and Design in Charlotte, the University of Carolina Law School at Chapel Hill, University of North Carolina and the Owens Corning World Headquarters in Toledo.

Tom and his work have had a long history here at the museum. His first piece was acquired in 1976 and the second piece, which was acquired in 1979, was featured on the cover of the museum’s ground-breaking exhibition catalog, New Glass: A Worldwide Survey, which took place in 1979. The museum now has 14 vessels and sculptures made by Tom, eight of which came to the museum in 2006 as part of the gift, a really great gift of studio glass donated to the museum by Ben and Natalie Heineman. An early vessel and sculpture by Tom are currently on view in the Modern Gallery and you can see an example of his more recent sculpture in the Contemporary Glass Gallery.

Tom’s work is included in public and private collections around the world including the Art Institute of Chicago, the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Modern Art, the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Victoria & Albert in London, Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris, the Museum Kunst Palast in Düsseldorf, Germany, and the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne. He is very well represented around the world, and we are very privileged to have him speak with us tonight.

Thank you Tom. [Applause]

TOM PATTI: Thank you, Tina. After that introduction, I don’t know, I hope I’m up to the presentation here. I’m very proud to be here. It was in 1975, the first time I visited Corning, and I was asked to bring a couple pieces of work. One of those works was the first work that was collected by a major museum anywhere, and it began to launch my career that Tina just spoke about. That was the extended version of my resume. I’m going to have to find a way to shorten that. My talk is autobiographical. What I’m going to try to do is to present a broad survey of the last 35, 38 years of work. With the collection. . . Tina mentioned that there’s, I think, 14 objects of mine in the collection now. So, between the talk, the slides, and this collection, you’ll know more about me than you want to know. You won’t have to go to the internet to hear any more.

I think this work—the first slide—is sort of typical about the. . .  my interest in small-scale objects. Part of the reason that they are small-scale is that in the initial part of my career, I was interested in the conceptual process, the thinking process about how works are created, about how form is generated.  And the simplest resources for me, it wasn’t a . . . I probably could have chosen many different kinds of materials to work with, but glass seemed to offer the greatest possibilities. That it could be transparent, opaque, when it gets hot, it gets soft, when its cold, it’s rigid. And sheet glass was the most available to me. I had no real financial resources. It would have been difficult to create an environment to work in glass in another way. Sheet glass was available in every dumpster behind every glass shop in the city. 

What I try to do is in this small-scale work is to . . .  one of the unique things is to try to void, work against some of the properties of glass. Where some I try to reinforce, some I try to work against. And one obvious one is, we are all excited about the optical properties of glass, and what I try to do is actually work against those properties. I’ve tried to create the glass as a window into a space; I tried to give space content. If you have the object . . . and I make them by hand, all my work is made by myself. So, if you hold that object at hand’s length, in all these planes—these horizontal planes—will appear to extend beyond your own personal space; you can go into the object, like that. So, that’s how I looked at these, and they were purely conceptual, I never. . . before 1975, when the first object sold, I spent 10 years working on them, and there was no intent, I never thought of a market or selling them. I simply photographed them and documented them.

This piece, this is the piece that Tina spoke about that was presented in a poster form, and it became a cover for the New Glass exhibition [catalog].  It’s interesting, because it was the first visual introduction to my work, and when I saw it I was impressed and I was honored that Corning selected my work to represent the next 25 years of contemporary glass. While I liked it, on the one hand, it failed to talk about the issues of what I was interested in. I’ll use this to illustrate to you. You can look at it, and the emphasis is obviously on the shape of the object, the way it is back-lit. But what it doesn’t do is show you, this is my slide of it—and this is like a slide I took, all the photographs, the early photographs are my own and I put a tack in it to give it a sense of scale. But, what you can now see by the way it’s lit is the sort of cool logic of each layer of glass represented. Instead of going into the furnace gathering glass and putting one layer on another and creating this sort of magic—what I call the paperweight mind-set of how does it get in there or what happens—I broke it down into a composite of many different layers and many different types of glasses. Each one I’d put into a package that I called a sequential program, so once gas is introduced into that volume, it will expand and it will—like switches turn on and off —[expand] each layer of glass to make it a particular, basic shape. I would manipulate that shape, control it by other external forces and evolve a particular form, here, but it’s that gray, that translucent gray on that top surface, on top of an opaque gray? Everything below that gray gets washed and becomes opalescent gray below that.  The body of it, the two-thirds of that lower section, are many layers of a bronze-colored glass. It’s not one layer. But, there’s probably 10 or 15, there’s probably over 20 layers of glass in that particular object.

All this relates to earlier work; Tina mentioned my interest in housing. I spent 10 years developing what I thought of as. . . trying to develop solutions for low-cost housing for underdeveloped countries or shelters for needy areas of the planet. This idea of taking materials—plastics and other kinds of things—and to be able to seal them off as membrane forms and to introduce air in them, or gas in some way, and make a continuous surface just by the pneumatic system fascinated me. I could put air into something and lift weight, and distribute surface and material. I began to do very large things, explore them in trees, and on water—on all kinds of surfaces. This piece is over 40 feet in length. It’s suspended between three large trees. It’s about probably 20 feet in height.

 I began to explore glass, trying to figure out ways to soften the material, and I found some insulating bricks, and I cut them up and I made a small oven. This is it, outside in my yard where I used to live in this renovated farm house.  I took the furnace, I just dug a hole in the ground which would support the four sides, the five sides of the furnace, and I made a little piece that I have in my hands, which is a door, and I took my welding torches and I took some little chips of glass that I found and I melted [them], and then I broke the aerial off my car and put the aerial in there, and I pushed it into this three-inch chamber—this four foot aerial—and it kept going in and in and in, because it was melting.  It was so hot! [Laughter] So, then I pull it out, the thing is about eight inches long, and I ran and got a piece of steel pipe and I ripped off the door, stuck that in there, pulled it out, and the whole furnace came out of the ground. [Laughter] So,that was the beginning, but it was a fascinating process, and it intrigued me and I began to continuously work with glass and inflated materials.

I developed inflatable plastics in the late ‘60s, and these are some of the early experiments where I could just use a candle and I’d make a plastic straw, a tube form, and then inflate it. I could create these complex forms just doing this, for years. There was actually a film that was made that’s in the museum in New York on this.

This is the first studio in the 60’s. I built it onto that house that I was speaking about. This is all found materials around the property. I built it onto the house so I could use the heat generated from the equipment to provide additional heat for the interior of the house. My bedroom was that little window up above on the roof.

While most people are familiar with my small-scale work, which the museum has mentioned, [it has] many of them. Most people are not familiar with the large-scale work. So, I’m going to talk about that. Realize that it’s all idiosyncratic, it’s all about my own little personal search, finding my own aesthetic vocabulary with it, with glass.

This is 1985, and I’m going to jump around a little through here with the years, but I think that it will conceptually hold together, the talk, and it will be a little more interesting. These are large sheets of glass; these pieces probably cover a 40-foot square area on the terrain. That skewed plane in the foreground that you see the ripples in, I threw a pebble in when I took the photograph to show that it’s not glass. When there is no ripple in it, it’s very glass-like, and all those angles reflect the environment. The more vertical one, to the back, reflects the landscape; the others reflect portions of the sky. So, when you look at that object, it’s describing the entire environment that you are in.

I’ve always had this interest in the outdoors. When I say outdoors, I’m also saying nature, as in natural, and it’s about observation, perception that gives me great insight into the work. I was talking to John, here, one of the local glass enthusiasts, and he mentioned that he’s been working with glass, and he’s been involved with studying all the books on glass, and I asked him how long? And he said about 10 years.  And I said, well it’s time to let the books go, it’s [time] to do the work and observe it, because you can gain so much empirically by discovering, by just being with the material. At a certain point, you have to let it go, you have to find out about it yourself. That’s really what I started many years ago, and I’m still trying to do it.

But a piece like this—it’s outside of our property—and I’ll go out and continuously look at it. That was it, when there was mist on it during the summer. This is it when there is mist on it in the fall, where the mist now creates a translucent surface, not sandblasted. And it will change during the day.  The sun will come up, it will dissolve off of the surface. The piece is organic, it will constantly change. And here it is in the winter with snow. It’s about going out every day, photographing it, observing it. I say that I made one piece, but it’s really not one piece, it’s many pieces. It’s that fascination that I have with observation, and that’s part of the reason that I hate to let my work go. To me, they are the research for my work. I didn’t make the work to sell it. I sell it now to support the work that I want to do, but believe me, I’m amazed that it actually happened like that.

It’s the observation and discovery that intrigues me the most. This is a relatively recent piece. This is glass and stone, this again is outdoors. But it’s about looking into the forest, seeing the stone, but at the same time I have a glass that has a certain degree of reflected surface on it, and you’re able to see through the glass in certain light conditions and simultaneously be able to see it in reflected light. So, you can see the sky, you can see the forest around it, and you can see through to the stone. There is a metal structure that I welded that these sort of clip into, all these large glass planes in the rock.

A lot of my interests is this sense. . . I don’t see variations in the work, like I don’t make one in red and then try to make one in blue or green, exhaust a number of possibilities with variations to it.

I see them like this piece here, done in 1963. It’s fundamental to my work. It’s a progression where you see, on the right, the lower portion is the dominant, and the upper portion is subdominant, and you see just by moving the neck of that of that form down how you reverse that. Then, you see, all the subtle changes in the surface are aesthetic choices. Someone else, given that same program that I just mentioned, might evolve a whole different look to what you see up there. But those are my aesthetic responses to that form. So, it’s one idea with four elements that make that up.

These are early drawings related to the housing. There’s a lot of interest in my early work, I think. There is more interest in my early work now, I think, than in what I’m doing. But anyways, I wanted to include it. These are pod-like modular structures that create a field of forms that, when I made these, that they are habitats, that these are habitable structures of continuous surfaces, and you can see the engagement of the window-like shapes in the foreground.

When I began to work with glass, it was that same interest. I used to begin my talks with, I’m going to talk about art and architecture. People say, aren’t you going to talk about glass, and I say, well, I am going to talk about glass, but my interest is in art and architecture, and I use glass as a material to explore these ideas. This is an early piece, in the late ‘60s, that’s not unlike the drawing that I just showed you. It has that geometry that you see in my work, the large rectangle with a convex form.

This is another from that same period of work.  When you look at these objects, some of them will overlap, and that is why I ‘m not going to show them in exact chronological order. I could have worked on this shape—I kept three or four of these—but I probably made hundreds of them. I don’t think that this one exists, the one I’m looking at. But, while I was working on these, there’s often these little shoots that come off of it, where I get these fragments of ideas that are inspired by this work, and I also explore those. The ones, the ideas that seem to hold the most promise for me [are] the ones that I may know the least about, or are intriguing to me, that sometimes I will leave this idea and move on to that one.

Many of the elements in this early work you will see refined and explored to a greater extent later in my career. And you can see by the early ‘70s, I was starting to combine some of the areas of interest. When I started to see that as a total landscape of forms—where I could create an arrangement of geometry on the landscape, and make the landscape itself a component of the work.

You can see that now, it’s pink, it’s orientated vertical[ly], you can see a bent piece of glass coming into these very thin layers. There was little or no interest in this kind of work when I did it. The vessel form: when objects suggested the vessel, there became . . .  a greater interest in my work.

This is one that I feel is important in my work, because it describes my interest in this architectonic relationship; by architectonic I mean that the form and the structure are one, you can’t separate them. This is one piece of glass, all melted together, where it’s the thick and thin of it creating the structure itself. But again, it’s many layers all programmed together to switch on and off with just the simple introduction of air.

As I work on some of them, I tend to be, I don’t know if the word [is] perfectionist, they seem to go towards an essence that I’m searching for, that I can’t define, and the process defines it. An object like this often terminates that, it seems to be so resolved. It seems to . . . it doesn’t give me a place to go, it sort of answered any questions, it sort of filled out the envelope for me. This piece was acquired by the Metropolitan Museum in New York.

This is a very small object, but for me quite beautiful. It’s just a simple. . . it’s a translucent gray, which you can see how the framework, how it describes the form. You see this vertical—this is a very early object—this vertical orientation I will return to, and the two planes existing on each side of it, I will return to. This is what I returned to 10 years later. This I call the Solar Riser series. This piece is in the Museum of Modern Art in New York. It’s about five inches tall.  Again it’s the conclusion of a process. There are several within that [series] that I made and kept. This is another one: you can see the planes, how they extend beyond the core, the central core of the object. Now, understand that to make this glass move into form, it had to be up near 1800, 2000 degrees, where most glass would go to a liquid.  But I developed materials and technology that was able to maintain the structure of the glass. I didn’t want to hide that they were actually sheets of glass. I wanted that to be revealed in the work. I wanted you to look at it and say, it’s just six pieces of glass. That’s all he did, just, he just fused these together and bent them; it’s as simple as that. And so the beauty, when you get by the technique, the beauty is just what you see. That’s all it is to me, just what I look at. I struggle to figure out how to get there, and I develop all these different ways, but it ends up [that] it’s just what you see.

When I left that farmhouse—Marilyn, my wife, my partner, who sits here with us this evening—we moved to a small town, a rural hill town called Savoy, where our daughters Sienna and Scarlet were born. I built this studio, this is all found material. I bought nails, I’m sorry, I bought nails for this building. You can see a garage door; if you examine this picture, you can see other stuff. It looks like I was waiting to put an addition on. But these are all the materials it took to build this thing. And out of that studio, there’s just a dirt floor, I got all this weird equipment that I salvaged out of the junkyard, and I built a studio to be able to make this kind of work.

I started to see objects with the possibility of being thick or thin, that the bottom didn’t have to be the thinnest part, that it could be the thickest part. And that the bottom, the thick part, could actually be the object itself. That if I introduced other layers that you could actually—when you looked into the glass—that you could control the direction that the observer would see in. That I could influence the way you would look at the work. That you wouldn’t just pick up a work and sort of move around it.  It would force you to look into it, look under it, look through it, look around it.  Less like traditional sculpture,  where you would stand on the landscape and walk around an object. You can see, looking through the opening at the top, so I made a large opening.  So, those small ribs on the side, they are actually clear glass, so that when you look through the opening, you are looking through the thinnest part of the vessel, at the side, so you see that window of opening. So, you are not looking from the outside the window, you are looking inside to see the window out.

These are very early objects, but I thought that these—together with what the museum has—you’ll know more than enough about my work. This is soda-lime glass. [In] none of these objects is there more than six or eight cents worth of glass in. There is no monetary value to the material itself.  It’s just gray glass, it’s like in the windows of some of the buildings in the area, the museum —soda-lime glass, the green glass.

These are other objects; I used three pieces of glass to make this object. You can see that the center one is the only one that has color, it’s blue. When you look at it frontally, the blue obviously will come through the clear area in the foreground and it becomes a blue object. I lifted up and created. . . I made it a little smaller, probably because I didn’t have a size I wanted. . . I had no cold-working equipment at the time, and so I used the piece and I created that space underneath. I flatten the form; I’ll often rotate it, look at it open-endedly. I don’t look at the work as having a top, bottom, or side. I look at them purely sculptural[ly], out in space. I look at them like my early architectural work that I created in these frames and space.  It’s not unlike that. They end up. . . when they’re finished, I rest them on a surface, I have to decide how it’s going to be,  and in this case that one became the surface. But I compressed the form very thin because I was intrigued about how the plane could open and close as you walked around it, or as it moved in front of you. So I collapsed the volume. Again, this is only three pieces of glass.

I started to look at the. . . trying to control or recognize glass as space, I sort of, I wanted to identify the surface as an important part, and not looking at the glass as a volume, as an object, but looking at the surface. The technique that I developed for fusing glass, and different types of glass that were normally thought of as incompatible, involved a lot of activity at the surface of the glass, so the surface became an interesting aspect of the work.  And this object is interesting because the surface, the surfaces of each plane of glass become the dominant element within the form.

I’ll often put several layers of glass together , and they have this certain aesthetic appearance, but it’s often to understand how the bubble moves and progresses through the form. Each one is a record of the transition of the spherical bubble into that geometric volume. It’s recorded by those layers of glass. I’ve used layers, and these are rods inside,  and the same with them. These happen sometimes away from me; I do it through observation [so] that I can start and stop the process, so those lines give me a description of where these materials are. Realize that this object is glowing red and a lot of these colors and things don’t appear as they would when they are cold. So I have rods and other materials in here that will glow at a certain wavelength that I can recognize,  and see,  and imagine what it might be like when it’s finished.

Let me just go back. . . This series that I called Echo Series.  I started to put a geometry I had developed on the interior of the glass. And what we saw as those dark layers on the bottom, I actually would enclose, encapsulate, certain shapes on the inside.  So, depending on the angle—we’re looking at this in the foreground, it is foreshortened. We are looking into it and you can begin to see the interior of that.  If you were to move down on that object, it would become completely opaque at the bottom, you would not see those forms inside of it. Again, [in] the vertical ones, I was able to introduce the bubble element, the spherical element, I was able to introduce several of them into the form. Again, you can see that thin hairline, that tracer,  that moves through the object.

It was in 1980 that I received a commission for General Electric World Headquarters located in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. I was asked to do a sculpture for their new atrium,  and I said that I would be interested if I could work in the facility to accomplish it, and if I could have access to GE worldwide, and they agreed to this. The project took two years. It was not only mind-altering, it was physically altering. It was a difficult project. It’s not easy to go into industry, the way I chose to, and to try to do something like this. But, we did it. It’s stone, glass, and metal. It incorporates all the plastics that GE developed in the last 60 years.

That’s me on the far left.  I had different parts of the building that I would work in. At one facility, there were 20 people that I would work with, in others, in the prototype lab, there were two or three.  But usually I was there; I’d get there early in the morning and I would leave late at night, for a couple of years, to develop this. There are eight pieces that make up each side of this, but there are over 40 parts that consume the package that went in the oven to be able to make it. The red that I developed for that piece. . .I had cut myself in the process of making it, and I wiped myself with some tissue.  And it was red,  it was on the bench, and it was just bleeding, like this red stuff all over, and I was searching for a color—what’s this thing going to be?  And I said, it will be the blood, it will be that red. And so I called it “Hemoglobin Red” [Laughter]. In Mount Vernon, Indiana they made it. They made two tons of this, sheets of this color for me. They matched it on the colorimeter, they matched the color that I sent them.

The experience of working with that red led to a whole generation of smaller objects when I was through [with] that commission.  I went back and I got some red glass in Europe, and I began to explore how that could be used.  And this I call a Split Riser, it’s the vertical emphasis on my work, that verticality again, but it has that division down the middle.

And here it is in a horizontal relationship of the layers. There is no longer an opening; the top of the object is completely sealed. All the elements, the geometric elements, are encapsulated on the interior of the form. This is all fused glass, this is all melted together, unlike that plastic piece that was laminated, that large piece at GE. This is all melted together. All the glass works that you have seen are all glasses that are melted together; for basic purposes, [they are] one piece of glass.

This is another. . . what I did was I put an opaque glass. . . I thought light was arbitrary, the way objects are lit, the way we see them. Where I would hold it in my hand, and you have sunlight, natural light, and you’re always getting an orientation to your mind’s eye, or to your eye, relative to a light source.  And I thought, while I’m involved with all these surfaces and elements of the object, I fail to understand the relationship of the object to the light. So, what it is, is an opaque layer somewhere in the object, usually in the lower portion, which has an opening in it. I’m sorry, it’s not an opening, it’s a clear area, where the light source is below the object.  And light penetrates from the bottom up, so I obscure the surface that it’s on. So, to the observer, there is no sense that there’s light, there is just the ambient light condition. But, there is a light source below the object. So when I make this work, I’m always thinking of where that light source is. Where before, I was making a form, and sort of arbitrarily thinking about the light, I began to think of the light and the object. Again, now, you see those, what they would call—I’ll use a term that people are familiar with—veils, but they are the interfaces between each layer of glass. You can see that geometry. You can see what was normally the bubble moving down into the glass. This is the bottom portion, and there’s actually a convex form moving towards the upper portion.

I was able to control the direction of objects in there, and passageways. These are channels that move through the object, that actually also describe the movement of the glass when it’s liquid.  My equipment is what I call non-traditional glass working equipment. This is . . .  people say, why don’t you use my oven, or can you bring your oven to my place?  You know, it costs me $10,000 to move this thing with a flatbed truck and a 10-ton forklift. It weighs 18 tons. This vessel. . this is a high-pressure vessel. I can put two million pounds per square inch of pressure on the contents, of whatever I put in here. It weighs 18 tons. It developed the prototype for the Stealth fighter bomber, this one. I got it from a military surplus company. [Laughter]

With that machine, it let me, let me go back to the experience at GE. That large sculpture I did for the atrium, it stands almost nine feet tall, which is now at the entry to the Houston museum—Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, Texas—that object.  That experience at GE. . . GE made clear, they laminated, they made impact resistant. . . they called it bullet-resistant clear glass, often for penitentiaries, or for high security areas, and banks.

So, I was exposed to this laminating technology at GE on that project. After two years of doing that project, it wasn’t just the red, I was. . . I couldn’t separate myself from that experience. I built another studio, which you will see, and I devoted it. . . because I didn’t want to go back in industry [the] way that I had.  I created my own environment similar to what existed at GE, [or] slightly different, and I began to do large-scale glass laminating.

These are the doors for the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, where a lot of my objects have gone into the museum. I think of it now as like, now the objects are the museum. And I like that. You are not looking at the object: you are in the object, looking out. And I like that idea.

This is the same piece, looking below it. So, as you walk towards the object, it’s translucent and reflective and it has these ellipsoids inside, and as you move across it, or move towards it, your sight line changes.  And as your sight line changes, the degree of transparency and translucency changes. So, you see people stop and look, and their heads are moving back and forth, and it’s they themselves interpreting what they see by where they stand and look at it.

That work, that commission, led to another commission. This is Graham Gund’s residence in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and this is his art collection.  I designed the entrance to their residence.  You can see on the scale, from where I took the camera, you can see that the upper portion in the far left [is] purely translucent, and to the right beginning to be transparent.

Another one, and I think an important aspect of my work is that, since 1980, I’ve been trying to literally promote my work as impact-, bomb-blast-resistant art work. [Laughter] And that is the reaction that I get! You know, you’re kidding me! People have no problem with the art side, but they go, Tom, this bomb-blast stuff, I don’t get it. I’ll take the art, but I don’t want the other.  I say, you can’t separate it, I designed it into it, and I can design any degree of it.

This is an excellent application. . . now, this piece is actually being relocated.  This is the Mint Museum of Art and Design in Charlotte, North Carolina. You’re looking at the hallway, looking into the museum area of it; from the museum side looking out, it’s this view. It’s like my small work, which is bilaterally symmetrical: there’s sort of a side and a front to the work.  Well, it’s the same with this, I’ve compressed it even further than I had before. You know this idea of compressing, compressing, putting all this information, all this data into a very thin surface that’s all programmed, built into that package. That there’s the interior museum side, and there’s actually another side, which is the hallway side. Forbid there’d be an incident in this museum, it’s well protected by this glass wall. You can also see where I’ve built a gradient; it goes from a darker color up in the upper corner to a lighter color down on the floor plane. So, people could have a clear view into the gallery, but I would diminish the bright lights in the upper portion of it by controlling that glass wall.

This is the—as Tina mentioned earlier—this is the University Law School at Chapel Hill. There’s three, there’s six of these tilted planes, these are fixed in position in the atrium of the new law school. These are three, and if you are standing at those three and look across, these are at the opposite side of the atrium.  And this is one—I’m not sure if this one even went into the project, this is a study, a development one, in my studio.

A current project that I’m working on: this is a 67-story building that’s—the architect is Architectonica—that’s going up in Miami, in the Biscayne area, near Cesar Pelli’s Performing Art Center, and it will be across the street from the new, soon-to-be Miami Museum of Fine Arts. What I designed is the curtain wall for it. It’s 14 stories; it’s the garage, so I designed the louver that encompasses three sides of the building, so it doesn’t need any mechanical ventilation for the garage. The louvers allow—the percentage of louver to open space allows—ventilation of the garage. There’s diagonal orientation to the sun that wraps, that folds, around the building; it doesn’t wrap, it actually, literally folds around the building. This is a mock-up of it outside of my studio. What you have here are two planes of glass, and the building will have over 300 of them, going from two stories above the ground up into the town houses that are on the top of the garage area and the pool, etc.

So, this talks about the separation between glass as a vehicle to animate light, and to use that to alter the surface of a 14-story structure. So, glass doesn’t exist as an enclosure to encapsulate a building, but it can be the building itself and change the skin.  And all subject, dramatically, to the environment it exists in, because it will respond, this glass is designed to respond to the light condition.

This is the node, or the intersecting, between each plane of glass. Each one is over 10 feet long, they are 18 inches in width.  This is an early iteration of a full-scale detail of where it has light in a grid—where I had the thin wire in my glass, those lines that I described the movement of the interior of glass? Here, there’s superimposed a stainless steel grid of tubing that wraps around the building above the glass.

I’m also developing a series of tables. I thought, how interesting. . .  I saw my glass on my workbench and that’s about. . . when you work with your own material all the time, and you’re in the studio, you see it in all these different kinds of conditions; you just couldn’t, you can’t design it. When you make your own work, it’s a completely different process than “designing” the work. Something else happens: you recognize these sort of serendipitous opportunities, and I thought that this glass that I had developed was much more interesting on the horizontal plane than it was on the window plane, when seeing through it. And so, I thought the table would be a wonderful vehicle for that. So, this is one table that you’ve been looking at. And this table has 50 iterations of changes in shape. Now I’m up to 50 tables. I enjoy it, and as I make new glasses, I’m always exploring them as related to the tables.

This is a building in lower Manhattan, near the Village, it’s called Morton Square.  It’s an entire city block, and J.D. Carlisle Development gave me the opportunity to be the single artist for the entire building. So, as you walk down the street, these are the townhouses, and I did the door, the entry on the door. You can see, let me try this, you can see the lintel—there’s a piece of glass in there and I did that letter inside, and in the upper portion, there’s circles and squares and they move down the building. So, as you come down the street, the glass work starts to unfold. And as people go into their apartments or use them, they keep illuminating, back-lighting, so the building is very animated.

I designed and provided the glass for the marquis, the entrance, of the building. I used a glass that works only in reflection. So, I put the lighting in the entrance in the ground, and pointed it under the canopy, so it’s all reflected light. I also did the side lights as you walk in towards the desk, the lobby desk. I did the lighting in the desk, and you can actually see the background.

This idea of the mystery of looking at components, of looking at the glass . . . you know, I look at it, I know that I made the glass, but sometimes I look at it like a stranger, like it’s trying to tell me something, there’s something in there.  Although I created it, there’s so much more to discover and to be understood. I took those concentric rings that you see in a form like this—and not consciously, but when you look back at all of your work. . . when I look back at my studio and I discover these objects, it’s not hard for me to find this relationship between that and this light fixture that’s in the lobby. This is over six feet in diameter, and it has a wire suspension system that’s built inside the glass. Each of those cables is one 10,000th of an inch in diameter, probably less than the thickness of the table cloth. And again as you move around this object, it will go from translucent to transparent. So, from a distance and almost close up, it appears to be totally suspended in its space. And you can see the composition now is the lobby, the desk, the wall, the lighting. This is, if you ever get in this building, and they would allow you to go in if you let them know you’re there to see the work, they  probably. . . this is on your way to the elevator; this is. . . you will see this construction there, and that’s about reflected light. It’s the glass, that filter, those diagonals, and the angle of the light actually push the light onto the surface of the wall. That’s why my hand is there, casting the shadow. But it’s not so much about the glass as the glass is a vehicle for the image that is left there.

This is the courtyard; we’re looking down from the upper portion of the building, looking into the courtyard. I had [the] opportunity on this project to work with Oehme, van Sweden [& Assoc.], the famous landscape architect from Washington, D.C.  I was able to do these outdoor glass and garden pieces in there. This is one of the smaller pieces; there’s many throughout the landscape.  And the people that have the townhouses, or the people that have access to that level, have access to the gardenscape.

This is a subway station. I’m going to move along a little more quickly. I’m going to answer some questions later, but this is another wonderful opportunity about the glass that I had developed in the ‘80s, about the impact-resistance, the bomb-blast protection. Being in a large public space like this, and it’s about glass that reflects and transmits light. In the condition you see here. . . that condition, that it can be simultaneously reflective and light transmissive, depending on the angle of the sun and the angle which you view it.

This is the exterior, where you saw that red because. . . the light. You were, like, inside that object.  If you were inside a small-scale work, this is what it would look like. Now you see it, here, it’s this green, it’s all mirrorized, it’s in reflected light during the daylight. At night, it will reverse, and it will all be that translucent red, or transparent red.

There’s seven triptychs I did, there’s one, two, three. . . over the highway and there is another one here. These are. . . on this windscreen and on the opposite one over here, there are seven triptychs, this is one.

Another recent project is the international terminal at the Charlotte airport. There is a band that moves around the entire gate portion of the terminal. This is a detail of that. I started having some ideas about space and form and time, that this idea of folding space or folding time, the inseparateness of space and time, the connectedness. So, there’s these overlapping, folded surfaces and planes in this, so I call it Flight Dialog.  So, as you move, as people access this space, and move around it or walk through it to get to their gate or something, this whole space becomes animated, the color changes as you move by it, shapes change because of the angle you are looking at it.

A lot of this comes from the work that was generated during this period of time. This is an exhibition. I have two dealers. I have Doug Heller, who represents my work in New York City, the Heller Gallery. And my other dealer is Serge Lechaczynski, the International Glass Gallery in Biot, France. This is Doug Heller Gallery, where I was folding planes, I thought, how to give space more content.  I thought that I’d work a corner of the space, and if I can occupy two planes, then I’d influence the space between those surfaces. So, this is the last exhibition that I had there that illustrates that work.

These are large pieces.  Not only did I have to make the glass, I had to build the walls for this thing. I had to make them, and then bring them down there and reassemble them, remake them. But, I think it was effective. I think that it was a very important stage to my work. As I mentioned, it was in 1975 that I brought my work out of the studio because there was an event in Corning, New York. I had these small objects and someone said, gee Tom, maybe you should, it looks like you’re having a hard time here, surviving, maybe if you took some of these objects, you could sell them.  I go, really, who do you think would buy these? They said, well, you just got to get them out there and show them to people, I think they’re really interesting. So there was this event at Corning, and I went and brought a couple of objects, but because I had no cold-working equipment and because they were just conceptual, they were fragments, they were parts of ideas, I took some that I thought were more completed than others, but because they were unfinished. . . when I got here, there was young people everywhere. But, I saw this machinery, and I was watching these people in there polishing it, and I said, I went to the foreman, and I showed him this piece of glass that needed some grinding and polishing desperately, and I said, if I could just do this, I would have this thing finished. And so he said, OK, you come in here, you sneak in, don’t make a lot of noise, and they let me work on the machine. Lo and behold, I look up, and there were all these students, everyone that was at this thing starts walking by this window, right, and then I’m out in the group, and they said, we didn’t know they let the workers out and do this thing, and I said, no, I was just in there working on the piece.

And this is the final slide, the first one, and I would like to thank everyone and especially Tina for the invitation to be here. Corning does, and will always have, a very special place deep within my heart. I’m very fond of this. I met two people that started me, gave me the best impression of what I thought the art world could be like. It was Tom Buechner, the Director of the Corning Museum of Glass and that famous scholar William Warmus, who did the book on my work, that I met here, and it all relates back to an event like this, and I think that’s why I’m here tonight. I haven’t done a lot of talks, and I came here because of that.

Thank you.