with essays by
1 ILLUMINATING THE MESSAGE
2 PLAYING WITH FIRE
3 X IS FOR XYLOPHONE: AND ENDINGS, AND ERASURE, AND XSTASY: THE ART OF SUSAN STINSMUEHLEN-AMEND
4 IN THEIR OWN WORDS: PAUL MARIONI AND SUSAN STINSMUEHLEN-AMEND
5 OBJECTS IN EXHIBITION
ILLUMINATING THE MESSAGE
by Emily Zaiden
A chance encounter at a gathering of glassmakers in the late 1970s brought Paul Marioni and Susan Stinsmuehlen-Amend together for the first time. The exact circumstances remain fuzzy but regardless of the specifics, their kinship was inevitable. In the thirty-six years that have passed since that initial encounter, Marioni and Stinsmuehlen-Amend have continually inspired each other as colleagues and friends and intersected at pivotal moments in their careers. What binds their work together, aside from their mutual admiration for one another, is the nurturing of glass as an expressive medium.
This exhibition is a selective retrospective of Marioni and Stinsmuehlen-Amend’s most meaningful and characteristic works, spanning the 1970s to the present. It is a glimpse at where they started, where they have gone, and where their work is heading today. They share a common belief that anything is possible and a willingness to experiment freely as they manifest their visions. The intent of this exhibition is to spotlight the range of processes that they have expanded, their innovative use of figurative imagery, and the way they have translated thoughts, experiences and emotions into glass. Throughout time, glass has been used to form vessels, windows and lenses. Marioni and Stinsmuehlen-Amend interpret these functions metaphorically, turning to glass in their art for its ability to contain, convey, frame and illuminate messages and meaning in a way that no other material can.
When they first met, Stinsmuehlen-Amend was already aware of Marioni’s work and his limitless potential to reinvent leaded glass. Dale Chihuly had asked Marioni to teach at the fledgling Pilchuck Glass School in Washington several years prior and Marioni had established himself as an outspoken non-conformist. Like many of the studio glass pioneers, Marioni was self-taught. After completing an English and philosophy degree in 1967 at the University of Cincinnati, he moved to the West Coast and started making films and installation art before turning to stained glass. Marioni was drawn to glass because he felt that it had the power to elucidate his ideas visually and symbolically. He first became known for creating painterly, content-rich panels that dealt with existential and politically charged subject matter. He was dedicated to pushing glass out of the aesthetics-centric shadow of the Arts and Crafts movement that had passed numerous decades before.
Stinsmuehlen-Amend studied painting and drawing before going on to run a successful Austin architectural glass business starting in 1973. After meeting Marioni at the conference, Stinsmuehlen-Amend tracked Marioni down and invited him to speak at her studio. Energized by what Marioni was doing with glass, fearlessly taking it to new levels of complexity and irreverently thumbing his nose at stylistic trends, Stinsmuehlen-Amend decided to take the plunge and explore her artistic voice more profoundly. Marioni in turn selected her to T.A. for him at Pilchuck in 1980 and a world of possibilities opened up to her.
Marioni was a teacher and mentor who recognized Stinsmuehlen-Amend’s potential, and he generously helped her enter into the inner sanctum of leading artists at Pilchuck, where she swiftly found her place. Her work made such a mark that she was asked to come back and teach on her own the next year. Like Marioni, teaching came naturally to her and it became an important component of her career.
From the beginning, although Stinsmuehlen-Amend entered the scene several years after Marioni, both artists created work that challenged existing modes and provided a channel for personal expression. While the emphasis in studio glass was on color and abstract form, they focused on concept. They saw the potential of the material to extend far beyond its physical characteristics. Glass had the power to stimulate the mind as well as the eye. In their hands, it became a reflection of their lives.
Punk to the core, Stinsmuehlen-Amend shook up the glass world with her fragmented X series. In these pieces, which she started creating around 1978, she melded together a pastiche of colors and textures in a way that was utterly post-modern. These were garish, chaotic and powerful works. They were meant to hang on walls and be treated in the same way that paintings were presumed to be art. The X was a symbol of how Stinsmuehlen-Amend wished to slash through the old, more staid ways of approaching glass. The series was Stinsmuehlen-Amend’s declaration of the same radical values that Marioni put forth in his early installation, Let Tiffany Die.
Stinsmuehlen-Amend concentrated on bold, experimental pieces that defied idealized standards of beauty, taste, form and pattern in this early period. She felt free to make glass that was not bogged down by being merely pretty, a move which had visual outcomes but also feminist implications, especially coming from one of few women working in studio glass at the time. She crossed over the various methods of manipulating glass and incorporated other media into her assemblage-like pieces, using scraps of everyday material to give them texture and depth.
Deconstruction and juxtaposition became formal elements in Stinsmuehlen-Amend’s work early on and they have continued, although shifted, over time. These initial pieces consisted of shards and shattered parts that she assembled together to build the Xs. Then, in the late 1990s, with the death of her mother and birth of a son, the structure of her work moved towards rectilinearity, with diptychs and triptychs of contrasted figures and patterns. She broke her compositions down into split segments that were meant to be absorbed together despite being separated into individual panels. Recently she has begun to sandwich the individual glass planes of images on top of one another, giving them multi-dimensionality. In these layered wall panels the viewer is meant to see into the depth of the piece but not through it, as would be the case if these panes were acting as traditional windows or screens.
The desire to convey ideas drives Paul Marioni and Susan Stinsmuehlen-Amend today, and it has set them apart from their peers since the 1970s. As Marioni put it,
Art is a form of communication. I make it as a form of expression.
– Paul Marioni
Tongues form the scaly skin of Marioni’s elegantly restrained portrait of Gossip. Spirits Lifting, with a light reference to the iconic floating lips of Man Ray’s lover, holds Marioni’s personal catharsis after a breakup. A Man’s Chair by Stinsmuehlen-Amend possesses the rage that surged in a dysfunctional home. Moments in time and the feelings that come with them are encapsulated in glass.
Sensuality appears throughout, sometimes overtly and other times with more subtlety. Marioni has never shied away from eroticism, noting its essentiality to the human experience. Some of his works are outright racy while others are veiled in ambiguity and innuendo. For Stinsmuehlen-Amend, sexuality is intertwined with identity politics and feminist viewpoints. In Who’s the Lead, Rex, two phallic shapes take the stage, and she played out a multi-faceted dialogue involving gender dynamics and whether glass or paint, which meld together to create the piece, and flat or dimensional forms, would dominate her future efforts.
Sensations and experiences, whether they take place in reality or in dreams, provide endless content to both artists. Among the various themes that emerge in their work, consciousness and psychic awareness are launching points for each, although they take two very different routes that have equally unique results. Marioni is fueled by a desire to explore the creative power of the unconscious mind. He often depicts figures and forms that come directly from dreams and the depths of his imagination. Hallucinatory visions and primordial nightmarish creatures are embodied in blown vessels and flat panels that he spikes with Surrealist wit. Skeletons, hollow faces with beady eyes, and pointy- eared beasts play leads in Marioni’s poetic cast of characters.
Stinsmuehlen-Amend instead makes reality her muse. Especially in her recent works, she peels through the layers that come together to compose her daily existence and the imagery that weaves through her mind as she goes about her business. She contemplates scribbles and doodles and asks whether or not these offhand sketches inadvertently divulge inner thoughts and the subconscious identity. Always willing to reveal herself in her work, her Calendar series gives us “a look into her brain,” and the multitude of ideas and demands operating in her life in any single instant. Mental images are broken down into individual glass sheets and then overlaid to create multi-dimensional paintings. Her process of assigning imagery to the panels is often plotted digitally as a starting point, and it is, in her own words, “a dyslexic nightmare.” These notes expose the complex stratum of life. Scrawled messages wind up juxtaposed next to records of life-changing moments: her mother’s chemo, for instance. Everything from the pivotal to the mundane is jumbled together on a daily basis. In her take, womanhood is the constant piling-on of demands and the obligation to multi-task responsibilities.
Although she rarely works in three-dimensional sculptural glass, starting in 2006 Stinsmuehlen-Amend created a series of cleaning products and cosmetic bottles containing painted imagery that floats within. Thoughts drift as one cleans and the mind is free to wander as one takes care of the tedious chores that fill the day. Stinsmuehlen-Amend filled these containers with glimpses into the subconscious psyche. The trivialized tasks that take up so much of our time have more significance than we realize. In addition, she makes the point that the everyday, overlooked objects surrounding us can provide the clearest insights into who we are.
Marioni also reinvents the traditional function of glass as a container. Rather than storing liquid or other substances, Marioni’s blown vessels gather and collect light to be held inside, which then illuminates his imagery. In his words, he chose the material because,
Glass eats light. It’s unique, nothing can capture light and hold it within, even if it’s transmitted through…that brings the glass to life.
– Paul Marioni
It is understandable that Marioni talks about working glass as being addictive, considering it gives the artist a mystical ability to harness and manipulate the intangible, and to figuratively awaken inanimate objects. Few other mediums are as entwined with the mastery of immaterial forces.
There is wizardry to the processes that Marioni has originated over the decades. A cast glass course in 1987 with Jaroslava Brychtová and Stanislav Libenský gave him a greater understanding of sculpture, light, volume and space that prompted him to start making kinetic Rockers a few years later. For his Yew, a kinetic mask form that he cast using a clipping of the sacred, cancer-curing tree, the clear glass face is a play on words instilled with a trace of that tree’s mysterious spirit. Arguably, his kinetic sculptures are the most extraordinary objects that he has devised.
Challenging the idea that glass should not move because of its fragility and rigidity, Marioni makes his Rockers with the notion of “putting life into a stationary object.” When Marioni describes how he makes and views them, they are undeniably animated with a form of higher power. They grab light and hold enough energy to self-sufficiently rock for as much as ten minutes or more, purring, chattering or sputtering all the while. He creates his rocking pieces to have the capacity to sustain momentum over time, and carefully listens to the way that they “speak through sound.”
These Rockers do not emerge from Marioni’s hands spontaneously. Part of what drives Marioni is the rewards he finds in putting his vision into reality, despite the trial and error that it often entails to get to the final product. He calculates and perfects the engineering of these complex pieces in terms of how they operate, their structural design and their center of gravity, often making several versions of a piece until he gets it right. They are multi-sensory works in the most innovative of ways.
Glass objects are often locked away as fragile treasures to never be touched. In Luxury Glass, Stinsmuehlen-Amend brings glass to life in her own way by forming an alien-like creature out of a cut glass design that caught her eye. This portrait fits comfortably alongside Marioni’s crew of monstrous beings, including Mean Mountain and the mysterious Ghost. Decoration and surface pattern have value to Stinsmuehlen-Amend and she sees them as having importance that lies deeper than the exterior. From the beginning, she questioned the modernist dismissal of value in ornamentation.
When Stinsmuehlen-Amend applies pattern in her work as a background or overlay, it links the piece to history and personal memories, and provides another dimension of associations.
Over the years, the two artists have taught at the top schools in the country, including Penland School of Crafts, California College of the Arts and Rhode Island School of Design. They have been honored with residencies in the U.S. and abroad; most notably, they were selected as Hauberg Fellows at Pilchuck in 2001 and again in 2012. Their work is significant to public and private collections across the country and they have shaped numerous civic spaces with their contributions.
Marioni and Stinsmuehlen-Amend look at glass from a perspective unfettered by convention. They have never worried about following fashion. Lamentably, that readiness to explore new directions has also contributed to pushing their work into the outer fringe of the art conversation and limiting its ability to receive the recognition that it deserves. Their works have not fit easily into the categories of the artistic dialogue during the late twentieth century. As such, their contributions have been skipped over all too often, despite their having carried glass beyond the existing hierarchies and into the broader realm of the art world. These two rulebreakers have boldly taken the road less traveled and they will continue to push glass into new territories of expression.
PLAYING WITH FIRE
by Geoff Wichert
Paul Marioni was already an accomplished independent filmmaker when he discovered the American stained glass movement that briefly, in the 1970s, seemed poised to bring about a revolution in glass art. He rose quickly among studio glass celebrities who were building an audience for their art through what they called ‘the road show.’ Logging endless miles in a series of rebuilt Porsches, he showed his work in lively, often controversial slide lectures, then taught workshops where his celebrated inventions —pointedly labeled ‘cheap tricks’—inspired glass crafters to throw out the manual and find more personal approaches to art. By the time stained glass lost its vogue he had moved on, adding first blown glass, then architectural installations, and eventually kiln-forming sculpture and painting to his range of skills. He continues to break new ground across this spectrum. Lucky enough to be present at the invention of a new art, when there were no rules and everything was yet to be done, he found no canon, little history, and few preconceived ideas. Forty years later, a genuine understanding of studio glass begins with knowing what he achieved.
There is no ‘typical’ Marioni artwork; his range of subjects and techniques continues to evolve. The inimitable, frequently erotic images that appeared in his early pictorial panels became as notorious as the claims he made from the lectern for marijuana as a boost to creativity. More iconoclastic than either, though, was his scorn for the lead line, which tied him to a past he excoriated in Let Tiffany Die, an installation where shards of glass littered the floor, while over them lead strips that might have joined them dangled from a clothes line, as if hung out to dry. As befits anything genuinely new, he and his work were often misunderstood.
Alongside the contemporary gamut of art-historical pastiches, his Magritte-inflected puzzles were misperceived as knockoffs of Surrealism. Even his most characteristic trope, the inventive use of non-traditional materials and techniques, was popularly misread as an effort to make more convincing representations. It probably owed more to Assemblage, the magic synthesis of sculpture and installation that had taken root on the West Coast a decade earlier. Determined to break down the false distinction that opposed the artificiality of art to the reality it aped—but which was also a social construct —he filled his illuminated parables and paradoxes with salvaged automobile headlights and prosthetic glass eyes. Optical lenses scavenged from Edmund Scientific become the hair and eyes of Dali, while in The Conversationalist, his actual eyeglasses recall his participation. Such works were not meant to be realistic; they were meant to be real.
Drawn to hot glass by its spontaneous results, he found his task inverted. Where the traditionally spiritual medium of stained glass had lacked materiality, blown glass was a utilitarian, design-oriented process already situated in the mundane world. What it lacked was metaphorical content, which he would insert— literally—into its surface. Almost forty when he began to blow glass, with no early training in its demanding craft, he might have settled for directing teams of artisans in executing his plans. Instead he asserted the importance of surface articulation over ornamental construction, thus keeping his own hands on evermore sophisticated objects, each unique, even when they constitute loose variations on an idea, and each of which, hollow or solid, is a vessel containing a metaphysical link meant to locate and encounter deep-set thoughts and feelings.
Marioni’s voracious curiosity feeds a worldwide awareness that informs and inspires his work. When the legendary aerialist Karl Wallenda fell in 1978, his death inspired The Fallen Hero. Although it took shape in a dream, Premonition, its earth convulsed by volcanoes and spewing up serpents, follows years of environmental degradation. Not one to deny a compelling visual its allegorical potential, he alchemically converts life and art into social and political criticism, then back again into art and life. A playful, determined provocateur, he remakes every medium he touches, including some, like his pictorial Terrazzo floors, where he has ventured virtually alone. In one, those who visit a government office encounter a bird’s nest, with eggs they must choose to walk over or around.
Paradoxically, he holds no brief for glass, yet the material draws him on. Bending, reflecting, capturing and emitting light, it more than compensates for its obstinate nature. Cast glass resembles semi-precious stone in Lickin’, while a diaphanous, blown Ghost capitalizes on its ectoplasmic insubstantiality. An eloquent medium for the dreams and ecstatic states that bring unconscious material to awareness, it locates timeless themes in signs drawn from the outer reaches of popular culture: tattoos, skulls, totems, hearts, masks, disguises meant to trick the gatekeepers. He explores the late-Modern disjunction between expressive form and content, creating works that make us laugh and shiver at the same time. Perhaps his most subversive achievements are his kinetic sculptures, the Rockers, which violate sanctions so deeply ingrained they operate without conscious consent. Glass is always both precious and dangerous, rarely to be played with, yet Marioni urges us to take out our deepest feelings, encoded in art, and do just that: play with them, until they become familiar enough for us to view directly.
Few artists ever reach the level of hyper-creativity where Marioni began, where he still works today: where content, familiar or not, calls forth radically new media to contain it. Those who do usually find their work more readily appreciated by specialists—in particular, by other artists—than by laymen. Indeed, most of what eventually did revolutionize glass art has scarcely touched the general public. Had that been different, though, Marioni’s path would not have changed. He has always made exactly what he wants to make. His uncanny understanding of art and unshakeable self-confidence allow him to bridge the gap between eccentric and exceptional. The things he makes are extraordinary, and have changed the world.
X IS FOR XYLOPHONE: AND ENDINGS, AND ERASURE, AND XSTASY: THE ART OF SUSAN STINSMUELEN-AMEND
by Annie Buckley
After poring over a stack of exhibition catalogues and magazine articles on the work of Susan Stinsmuehlen-Amend, it is difficult to ignore that nearly all of these publications pertain to glass. While Stinsmuehlen-Amend’s history with that medium is definitely important, such specificity raises the question: Why has the artist’s work been so pigeonholed? Not only has she worked with paint, metal, wire, and a variety of other materials since the 1970s, Susan is also an artist for whom ideas are tantamount to media, and at times even more integral. So it is confounding that her work has been viewed so consistently through the lens—permit the obvious pun—of glass.
Beginning in the 1960s, technological innovations made it possible to work glass in the studio rather than in factories. This change in practice energized a small but strong community of artists to transform the way in which glass could be used in art. As this shift got underway, Stinsmuehlen-Amend was still in college, studying painting.
In the early 1970s, fresh out of the University of Texas, Austin, Stinsmuehlen-Amend settled in Texas. Soon afterwards, a neighbor invited her to be a partner in his new business, Renaissance Glass. Stinsmuehlen-Amend put her art background to work designing commercial pieces while simultaneously turning the business into an energetic hub for glass art, inviting artists from around the country to lecture and share their work. She spent long days tending to the business, and evenings experimenting with the material and ideas in her studio, creating a playful body of work couched as much in that era’s material innovations as it is in the art and culture of the time— and then she would go dancing.
This was the seventies, the decade when the radical changes of the sixties began to find their way into mainstream American life and culture, and Stinsmuehlen-Amend took the newfound freedoms gained from the Women’s Rights movement to heart in her life choices and in her art. Brushing aside traditional expectations for the stay-at-home wife, she was a partner in a thriving business, a mother, and an exhibiting artist at a young age.
It was during this time that Stinsmuehlen-Amend began to fuse her studies in painting, her new experience with glass, and her particular worldview to create the dimensional collage pieces of the X series. These wildly colorful fusions of found glass, lead, and sundry domestic items, including nail polish, glitter, and wire, each employ an ‘X’ motif as structural and visual ground. X is for xylophone, the ABC books told us, but it is also for endings and erasure and those dizzy knocked-out cartoon eyes darkly suggesting violence, inebriation, and ecstasy in various combinations. At once playful and challenging, these X works channel the radical spirit of feminist artists of the sixties and seventies. Stinsmuehlen-Amend’s adventurous early work attacked many of the typical ideas associated with glass as a material—that it be transparent, beautiful, pure, polished, and generally pleasing—an impulse that remained a thread in much of her work.
In these early, busy years, Susan pioneered many of the approaches to glass in wide use today including non-traditional, unfired painting on glass, mixing glass with other media, and presenting painted, decorated glass on the wall in reflected light. However, rather than settle into a style, as she might have with a successful business and career, she continued to experiment. By the middle of the decade she had left the Xs behind, as well as her business partnership and, before long, Texas.
Stinsmuehlen-Amend’s ongoing visual vocabulary is equally humorous and incisive. The wild and witty mélange of jarring colors, shapes, and textures in Tower of Multiple Nonfunctions, for example, draws on the disjunctive palette and construction of the X works but with increased layers and complexity. She began to integrate imagery and symbols in what she refers to as narrative poetic works. In Chernobyl Cocktail, a brown bird flies away, seemingly lost, from a rusty brown flame atop a structure; if that bird had eyes, they would surely be Xs.
In 1988, Stinsmuehlen-Amend moved to Los Angeles. She quickly applied her energy and experience with commercial projects to civic renovation, joining the Community Redevelopment Agency’s Hollywood Cultural Plan Committee and being named lead artist on the Hollywood Boulevard Streetscape Team. In the studio, the gender issues embedded in Stinsmuehlen-Amend’s work since those first attacks on convention in the X series shifted from suggestion to prominence. Her use of multiple patterns posited against one another, integration of domestic materials, and the insertion of her own life experiences resonated with the progressive and experimental work of feminist artists of the era.
Works such as Weight and Buoy, take the form of a uterus. Like Hannah Wilke and Carolee Schneemann, Stinsmuehlen-Amend’s approach to the female body came from experience, and posed a counterpoint to centuries of images of women in art created by men. Infused with humor, pathos, and irony, String of Boobs, (not included in this exhibition), is a line of clear glass orbs with nipples that was constructed by a team of male fabricators at Pilchuck under Stinsmuehlen-Amend’s direction. In this piece, Stinsmuehlen-Amend fluidly moved between maker and facilitator, playing against stereotype of both materials and gender roles in art.
In Common Vessels, Stinsmuehlen-Amend addressed glass’s relationship with functionality, casting household items, associated with women’s work, in glass and layering in painted imagery. Her interest in the day-to-day, specifically in its relationship to the unconscious mind, fuelled Calendar Notations, a provocative series of layered paintings on glass. Enlarging fragments from calendars, notebooks, and doodles (including a picture drawn by her son as a child in Happy Face) on glass, Stinsmuehlen-Amend fused these with pattern in layered paintings. T.G.I.F. is a clear glass panel with layers of handwritten script, some of it crossed through, and a figure of a boy with a crown. The ephemeral nature of the original text is made solid in glass, yet remains apparent in the shadows that the painted script casts on the wall. This process of painting found imagery with notes, calendars, or shopping lists raised the minutiae of daily life to a level of prominence and focused attention on the unconsidered, the fleeting and the left-behind.
Her most recent work continues to address ideas and processes developed throughout her career. Man View II, is exciting in its suggestion of a new direction and is also one of the most visually complex pieces to date. Multiple layers of imagery include anatomical, cartoon, and photographic views of the male body. The combination of different kinds of images, as well the probing of social and cultural iconography, call to mind the tapestry-like paintings of Los Angeles-based artist Carole Caroompas. Stinsmuehlen-Amend’s roots as a painter are apparent throughout her work, as is her long history with glass. But overall, it is the way she employs these and other materials, and their various psychosocial and cultural murmurings, that makes her art—in every media she uses—so deeply compelling.
IN THEIR OWN WORDS: PAUL MARIONI AND SUSAN STINSMUEHLEN-AMEND
Stinsmuehlen-Amend: Okay, so Paul, how do you remember first knowing that I existed on the planet, how did that happen in your mind?
Marioni: Boy, I can’t remember back that far, that was in the 70s. Didn’t we meet in ’78 or something?
S-A: Like at some conference, like at Portcon or something?
M: Where was Portcon?
S-A: Portcon was in Dallas. There was one in Dallas.
M: That’s probably where we met. They did a workshop in your studio in Austin. In about ’78 or ’79. We might have met before that, but I don’t remember where.
S-A: Right…I was reading glass magazines, and I was reading about people like you and I was
like, well, that’s being done in glass, with leaded glass no less, and I was calling up people and asking them to come down to Austin. I just didn’t remember if I had called you or if we had met at one of those glass conferences…what is it like, thirty-seven years ago, or something?
M: It would be in the late 70s so yeah, about thirty-six years ago…I don’t look back like that. I’m more concerned with the future than I am with the past.
S-A: I’m a little bit like that too. I don’t like to think of the past and kind of shine it up. Maybe that’s one of the reasons that we are—one of the pluses in our relationship.
S-A: But I did invite you to come and teach a workshop in Austin. You stayed at my house, correct?
M: I think so.
S-A: I invited you down, you came, and then after you saw my work, which was the beginning of the Xs, you asked me to be your T.A. at Pilchuck. And why did you do that?
M: I was impressed! You were talented.
S-A: You didn’t think those pieces were ugly?
M: Not at all, no! I thought they were great. They’re still some of my favorite of your work.
S-A: You know it’s funny that work got me notoriety but nobody ever bought any of those pieces.
M: Yeah, well that’s not unusual either.
S-A: Anyway…You liked my work…Everybody around me didn’t know what to think about what I was doing. And then you asked me to Pilchuck, which I barely even had heard of. And I stayed with you in Seattle and I couldn’t believe all this work, and your work and the studio. I just thought, oh my god, anything is possible when I was in your studio. And you were so supportive. And then we went to Pilchuck and I was your T.A. except that you did what you did and I did what I did; I don’t know what the class did.
You used to give these great talks, slideshows called ‘The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.’ And people would send you slides from all over the world [that] you just put in a big old slideshow. So it was really important that you were spreading out the visual information to the world about what can be done with glass.
M: Yeah, we were trying to make something happen.
S-A: And what was your thing about the flat glass part of it? Who was it you studied with in Northern California?
M: Judy North. At the time she was Judy Raffael, married to the painter Joseph Raffael. She had taught at Bennington; she was trying to do something with flat glass but not getting anywhere . . . and she moved out to Northern California when she married Joseph . . . We had this connection before we met [because they had seen each others’ work]. But she got me interested in glass. I was making movies, at the time.
S-A: So when you first went to Pilchuck were you teaching flat glass?
M: Yeah. I met Chihuly a couple of years before. He had come to Oakland to do a workshop with Marvin [Lipofsky] at California College of Arts and Crafts. And Chihuly and I immediately latched onto each other. In fact, he was supposed to give a lecture and he and I went out for a walk ‘cause we had started talking to each other. We walked and we got back forty-five minutes late, and Marvin was really pissed. Dale and I were instant friends. Dale had just started Pilchuck the year before, so then he asked me to come out. And basically that whole summer was just rich for me.
S-A: But were you originally a spokesperson for ‘flat glass,’ which is what it was called at that time?
M: Well, actually it wasn’t. I adopted the term because it was a derogatory term from glassblowers, and I liked it so I took it on. Prior to that I would say I didn’t do stained glass, I did ‘strange glass.’ I never did anything traditional. That was the beauty of Judy Raffael—she let me come out to her studio for five days, taught me how to cut glass, how to cut the lead and solder, and then she said, “go home and do whatever you want to do. Get out of here and don’t come back.” And I had no preconceived notions about what should be done. So I started making wall pieces and sculptural pieces
and weird imagery and laminating photographs ‘cause I had no idea what had been done or what I was supposed to do. And they asked me to teach at CCAC. So I started blowing glass but then Dale wanted me to introduce flat glass to Pilchuck, back when it was two tables around the hot shop.
S-A: I was not trained in stained glass or glass at all. You were not either. You found out what you found out on your own, correct?
M: Yeah, that’s right. To me, you were an artist. You were not a glass artist. You were an artist. That’s what interested me about you. You’re a vivacious personality and extraordinarily talented and smart. And beautiful.
M: And you were doing something exciting. And at Pilchuck, you were a hit. They asked you to teach there before you even finished being a T.A.
S-A: That’s the other thing we were talking about, that you and I seem to be sort of natural teachers. I didn’t set out to be a teacher and I don’t know if you did but—
M: Definitely not. For me it was payback time. After all the teachers I would have liked to throttle. Once they asked me to teach, it was revenge.
S-A: To the benefit of your students. It just seems like we just became natural friends and we naturally respected what each other was doing. I think you inspired me…I would say more about the approach, which is like, fearless, most of the time . . . I always felt better knowing you were there and I always was inspired by the way you would come up with—one year you’re teaching flat glass, the next year you’re teaching cast glass and making these incredible molds to press and it seemed like you were always coming up with new ways of dealing with these old processes.
M: We were fast friends, no question about that, a mutual admiration society . . . So sometimes it was cast glass, sometimes painting, sometimes laminating photographs; it was all these different ways of doing it. I had to find a way to put my vision into reality, same as you. You were gluing stuff on the lead lines and painting stuff on the lead lines and laminating and you were breaking all the barriers, too.
S-A: We were both at the Hauberg [Fellowship] together and that seemed right. And then we both were in Scotland together. Other people have seen us as natural or good together. That wasn’t something that we planned. I think others have recognized us for the same thing you just said, of breaking the rules or moving out of the predictable notions about where you would go with the material.
M: Birds of a feather.
S-A: Birds of a feather, there you go.
S-A: We might talk about when we were painting in the room together at the last Hauberg, and you were painting Mean Man and Mad Mountain. It was just astounding to me that they were so simple and you were piling on this paint with such urgency . . . I do get inspired by watching you or seeing what you come up with and imagining where the ideas came from. That still seems like a big mystery space for me about your work, although I think we both have an attachment to Surrealism.
M: Figurative. We both like to work figurative . . .We’re driven by passion. And that’s a good thing. Passion drives people to do what they’re doing, whether it’s mass murder or painting, you know. Passion’s a good thing. Many people don’t have it. They just have drama. Drama is a dead end street.
S-A: Sometimes I feel like I don’t know what I want to make next, and then I say, oh, you don’t feel passionate about this. It gets tricky sometimes in terms of coming up with the idea.
[Do you see yourselves as rebels?]
M: I’m a saboteur. Not so much rebel. I’m interested in what I can learn, and that usually means exploring new territory. But provocateur is probably a better word. I had a lifelong quest to learn, which means, of course… if you’re a provocateur you’re trying to go to some place you haven’t been before. I say you could live three lifetimes of a hundred years and not know everything there is to know about glass, because glass has a mind of its own. And it’s extraordinarily demanding material. It’s fragile and, particularly hot glass, unpredictable. Blowing glass, which I never really did much, is extraordinarily demanding. You have to be there 100% mentally and physically; you have a hangover or a fight with your partner, you’re not going to be very good at blowing glass. It requires such intense focus. To me, it’s addicting that it requires that focus. I want to continue to learn the rest of my life. In fact, right now, I feel a little stagnant so I’m going to start a new life. It might be a life of crime.
S-A: I don’t think that’s one of the craft categories. Or maybe it is! The craft of crime . . . You’ve always taken me to a place that I don’t recognize, or don’t know. So that intrigues me, to try to wrap my head around your work. I find it mystifying and provocative and inspiring, so that’s always been good . . . Rebel? I think that I may operate a little more spontaneously in terms of not taking the time to learn more, and just take action, which I lament sometimes, but . . .
M: I do think your work is more spontaneous than mine. I usually have a clear vision of what I want to make before I start. Sometimes I make changes as I’m going along, but I think you’re more spontaneous than I am.
S-A: Yeah, it’d be hard to say. I’ve been plotting things out pretty well. But then if they don’t work or they don’t look good I’m pretty spontaneous in making changes. But I think I was more spontaneous in the early days.
M: Yeah. I think the new multi-layered imagery is really good… you’re always good with color.
S-A: Thanks, thanks. Is there anything else? We just like each other and just inspire each other.
M: Mutual inspiration society.
[Can you discuss sexuality in your work?]
M: Well, sometimes I address it . . . I address human sexuality because . . . after the AIDs epidemic, I lost a lot of friends, having lived in the Bay Area for eighteen years. Our sexuality is a big part of our existence…I try and make the work about our sexuality humorous so people can come back to realizing it’s so important and pleasurable as part of our whole existence. It kind of goes back to recognizing it, not mourning our sexuality.
S-A: I’ve dealt with sexuality in my work, off and on all through it. And sometimes I like the ambiguous nature of not knowing what it is, that it could be something sexual, but you could just go to that place. The more meaning that I can elicit from the work I do the better. Being a woman and sexuality has been part of the work forever. How much do you rely on your subconscious, or unconscious? I think some of that information comes from that area, from that territory of dreaming or imagining.
M: Early in my work a lot of it came from dreams. I still have quite weird dreams . . . the dreams never really make much sense. I never really try to analyze them. The strange thing is that I never have nightmares. I haven’t had a nightmare in probably forty years.
S-A: That means you’re really open-minded.
M: No, it means—around 1970 we did a lot of dream study work. A group of us got together years before it was a thing…but once a month we would hire a speaker, whether it was a Hopi shaman or a psychologist, whatever, a Freudian, a Jungian. It was a mixed group, all art people, but not all artists. Everyone else was interested in interpreting their dreams and I wasn’t because to me, dreams are just misfiring neurons. I’m not interested in interpreting them. It’s like if you dropped one of your pieces and it broke, you likely would have a dream about breaking glass. It doesn’t mean that you’re anxiety-ridden or whatever: you broke a piece that day so you dreamed about breaking glass that night. I wasn’t interested in being a Jungian or a Freudian. I was interested in what I could see.
One of the things that particularly interested me was getting over my fears because I had a number of fears when I was young. And in a dream state I could address my fears and how groundless they really were. It did a lot for my self-confidence. It’s one of the reasons I started teaching and started speaking in public. And so dreams were important in my early work, in the imagery. I used a dream in my work as a way of expressing an emotion. And still do.
S-A: We both were doing leaded glass when we first met, before and after. Why did you evolve out of doing the leaded glass panel?
M: Uhh. You’re not going to like this! For years I thought that stained glass was being reborn. But around 1984, I realized it was still boring. I couldn’t sell it, so I stopped doing it.
S-A: I was doing these panels that were leaded glass on the wall, ‘cause I thought maybe if I put it on the wall it will be considered more as art. But I was still using the lead lines and putting these things together, and I think about that same time, I also went, I think this is ridiculous for me to be using lead lines —I don’t know what it is about that process!
M: I still love the process, I see enormous potential, but I haven’t made a leaded glass window since about ‘85, I think, was the last one. I actually remade one last year for Dante, a very early one. I had the original drawing…it was Mt. Tamalpais blowing a smoke ring. Mt. Tamalpais has like a sleeping woman, and out of the top blows a smoke ring in the sky. I remade it but actually I cut all the glass and leaded it and then I had to pay Ed Koury to solder it. I hadn’t done one since about ’85 and I wanted it done right, so I paid Ed to finish it for me after I cut all the glass and the lead.
S-A: I’m teaching at RISD and typically they introduce people to everything and leaded or copper foil glass is on the list, and I’m really having trouble coming up with an assignment for that process.
M: It’s limiting. It’s a limiting process! I used to take fake lead lines and run a lead line out in the middle of a shape and glue it on, because you can’t cut halfway through a piece of glass, you’ve got to connect every line. It’s very limiting in the design. I find painting on glass does away with all those limitations . . . [and] limitations of color. You want red but you want a real cherry red but all they’ve got is tomato red and so you use it because it’s red but it’s not exactly the red you want. And your design’s limited by the lead lines. And painting on glass opens up all of those parameters.
But like I said, I always saw you as an artist, not a glass artist. You’re an artist. You use glass sometimes. A lot of people, because of their popularity in glass, they brand themselves as glass artists. I never did because I’ve made movies and worked in plastic and wood, performances pieces and everything. I always thought of myself as an artist, just that I’m known for the work I make out of glass. Doesn’t make me a glass artist. It’s like Marcel Duchamp. People worked with glass and they weren’t glass artists. They used glass when it fit their idea.
[We are looking forward to the show.]
M: We’ll have fun and we’ll accomplish something. That’s as good as it gets. Doesn’t get any better than that. We will enjoy it.
S-A: Yes we will!
*This conversation took place via Skype on November 30, 2013 and was transcribed by Alexandra Romanoff and edited for clarity.
Black Jaguar, 1987, painted and blown glass, 14 x 8 x 5, Russell Johnson photograph
Fallen Hero, 1978, painted and blown glass, 9 x 5 x 5, Collection of the artist, Roger Schreiber
Fermat’s Last Theorem, 1998, enamel fired on glass, 26 x 26, Russell Johnson photograph
Frida, 1992, painted and blown glass, 21 x 7 x 7, Collection of Susan Stinsmuehlen-Amend, Russell Johnson photograph
Ghost, 2001, kinetic blown and frosted glass, 19 x 10 x 6, Russell Johnson photograph
The Glassblowers, 1995, enamel fired on glass, 24 x 24, Russell Johnson photograph
Gossip, 2011, enamel fired on glass, 27 x 24, Courtesy of William Traver Gallery, Seattle, Washington, Russell Johnson photograph
Lickin’, c. 2005, kinetic cast glass, 16 x 10 x 4, Collection of Susan Steinhauser and Daniel Greenberg, Russell Johnson photograph
Looking Back, 2001, enamel fired on glass, 23 x 25, Russell Johnson photograph
Mad Man, 2012, enamel fired on glass, 25 x 19, Russell Johnson photograph
Mean Mountain, 2012, enamel fired on glass, 25 x 22, Russell Johnson photograph
The Queen, 1993, painted and blown glass, 16 x 9 x 9, Russell Johnson photograph
The Something or Other Society, 2005, painted and blown glass, 10 x 7 x 7, Russell Johnson photograph
Spirits Lifting, 2008, painted and blown glass, 11 x 12 x 3, Russell Johnson photograph
The Visitor, 1984, painted and blown glass, 9 x 6 x 6, Roger Schreiber photograph
X Oohaha, c. 1980, painted and blown glass, 8 x 5 x 5, Collection of Susan Stinsmuehlen-Amend, Russell Johnson photograph
Yew, 2003, kinetic cast glass, 21 x 14.5 x 5.5, Collection of Susan Steinhauser and Daniel Greenberg, Russell Johnson photograph
Photos on pg 4, 9, 23 Russell Johnson photograph
A Man’s Chair, 2003, enamel fired on glass, mixed media on wood panels, 24 x 32, Tom Kelley photograph
Buoy, 1993, blown glass, knotted twine, brass, fabric, 7 x 12 x 3.5, Collection of Anne Cohen Ruderman, Richard Todd photograph
Chernobyl Cocktail, 1986, painted and fused glass, modeling paste, metals, wood, 38 x 35, Collection of Susan Steinhauser and Daniel Greenberg, Lone Star Silver Studio photograph
Common Vessels/Spray Bottle, 2006, off hand sculpted solid glass, painted pickups, 16 x 7 x 5
Garden of Eden/Paradise I, 2004, enamel fired on glass, found metal, mixed media on wood panels, 24 x 24, Kim Stephenson photograph
Grocery Nude To-Do (Calendar Girl), 2013, enamel fired on glass, 32 x 21
Happy Face, 2001, fired enamel and decals on glass, mixed media on wood panel, 16 x 24, Collection of Jo Lauria, Tom Kelley photograph
Hexaplex, 1978-79, handblown and rolled glass, ead, zinc, paint, glitter, 36.5 x 28.5, Will van Overbeek photograph
Jalapeno Girl, 1986-87, off hand sculpted solid glass, 17 x 7 x 3
Luxury Glass (Sugar Bowl), 2013, enamel fired on glass, mirror, metal frame, 20 x 29
Man View II, 2013, fired enamel and photo decals on glass, wood and metal support,32 x 21 x 1.5
T.G.I.F./April, Calendar Notations, 2005, enamel fired on glass, wood support, 30 x 19 x 4
Tower of Multiple Nonfunctions, 1985, glass, paint, modeling paste, jewels, brass, copper, zinc, lead, wood, 38 x 17, Lone Star Silver Studio photograph
Weight, 1993, blown glass, knotted twine, brass, fabric, 17 x 12 x 3.5, Richard Todd photograph
Who’s the Lead, Rex, 1989, glass, wood, paint, hard foam, 46 x 42 x 6, Collection of Susan Steinhauser and Daniel Greenberg, Rob Brown photograph
Xtinxion, 1980-81, etched, painted and hot-worked glass, laminated fabrics and plastic, found plastic, copper, brass, steel, zinc, wire, 50 x 30, Will van Overbeek photograph
This show came about because we wanted to celebrate the visionary work of these two artists.
Without the willingness, flexibility and dedication of Paul Marioni and Susan Stinsmuehlen-Amend, content aside, this exhibition and catalog would not have been possible. They assisted in innumerable ways from inception through fruition and having their passionate involvement brought the project to life.
Familial ties lead Richard Amend to lend his impeccable eye and gifted hand to the exhibition design. His resourcefulness and inherent understanding of the objects was invaluable.
John Maeda was able to capture the essence of the objects and translate that spirit into the design of the catalog.
With grace and total efficiency, Denise Kang provided the organizational skills and attention to detail that were essential to producing every aspect of the exhibition and catalog.
Alexandra Romanoff and Judy Hing provided precise and insightful editorial assistance to the text. Beverly Feldman creatively helped generate publicity and interest in the exhibition.
We are deeply grateful to Jo Lauria, who graciously worked to create and moderate a program in conjunction with the show.
Patricia Bischetti, Rosey Guthrie and the staff at Freehand, Terry de Castro, Madison Metro, Mary Oligny, Ruth Oglesby, and Argenta Walther were critical to this endeavor on every level.
In addition, Craft in America wishes to thank the following individuals and organizations for their generous support of the exhibition and catalog; Anonymous, Glass Alliance of Los Angeles, Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser, and Gloria and Sonny Kamm.
We would also like to thank Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser, Jo Lauria and Anne Cohen Ruderman for lending artwork to the show.
Emily Zaiden, Director, Craft in America Center
Carol Sauvion, Executive Director, Craft in America