With a career that spans over 40 years, Richard Jolley is one of today’s most accomplished glass sculptors. His figurative work uses organic forms to explore the breadth of the human experience; from the body to nature to science. Born in Wichita, Kansas, Jolley moved to Oak Ridge, Tennessee in his youth. He has continued to call East Tennessee his home, even making the unconventional decision to establish his glass studio in Knoxville in 1975. Jolley began his fine art studies at Tusculum College in 1970 and later completed his BFA at George Peabody College (now part of Vanderbilt University). He has participated in over 64 solo museum and gallery exhibitions across the country and internationally, and his work is included in the collections of several prominent institutions including the Carnegie Museum of Art, Corning Museum of Glass, Knoxville Museum of Art, Los Angeles County Museum of Modern Art, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC.
In May 2014, Jolley’s steel and glass masterwork Cycle of Life: Within the Power of Dreams and the Wonder of Infinity, opened at the Knoxville Museum of Art. Five years in the making, Cycle of Life is one of the largest figural glass assemblages in the world. The installation is composed of thousands of blown glass and steel elements and symbolically depicts six successive phases of life: Primordial, Emergence, Desire, Tree of Life, Contemplation, and Sky. “It’s a figurative range of people and nature,” Jolley says. “The question was how to distill the life cycle to fit the space and answer the questions: Who are we? Where are we? Where do we come from? Where are we going?”