Memories and Dreams, the art of Bertil Vallien

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Essay from the catalog, published for the exhibition, August 2017.

Imagine a world where we experienced things from the inside out. Imagine if our first impression was of something’s essence, and it was only through closer looking that we distinguished its external qualities. Would our self-awareness evolve and our empathy for others expand? Would we be more attune to the commonalities of our shared living experience, more sympathetic to things we do not understand, less concerned with solving life’s mysteries and more content living within them? 

The art of Bertil Vallien guides us through this journey of interiority and is as reflective, thoughtful and, ultimately as magical, as human nature itself. Vallien’s focus on looking inward is achieved in myriad ways, one of which is his unique glassmaking technique. A leader in the Swedish glass industry for more than 40 years, Vallien formulated his own method for casting glass in sand that creates depth and radiance in the material. Artworks are driven not by their final appearance—although their visual impact is stunning—but rather by their content. Vallien’s preparatory sketches are carefully considered blueprints of both the external form and the inner details. Layers—both physical and psychological—are created through a multistep process. Surface textures result from the imprint of objects placed on the walls of the mold, which are also dusted with powdered metal oxides to release color. As the molten glass is poured into the mold, Vallien incorporates a variety of objects from sheet metal and glass threads, to figures and other colored forms. Once the glass cools, the suspended animation reveals itself in full glory. Light reflects off the brilliant surfaces and assorted angles of the perimeter, but more dramatically it emanates from within.

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Vallien has said that “knowing the exact moment at which to capture a shift of light or expression and wrench the secret from the glass is what it is all about.” Just as his technical approach unearths internal “secrets,” so his visual motifs are explorations of the subconscious. The artist is motivated by various things—from stories he hears on the news, to people he has met, to his religious upbringing and questions about faith, to wars both historical and contemporary. Despite these concrete inspirations, the work is not meant to pose facile questions with prescribed answers. Umberto Eco wrote “I have come to believe that the whole world is an enigma, a harmless enigma that is made terrible by our own mad attempt to interpret is as though it had an underlying truth.” Vallien’s art embraces this idea, transforming the events and experiences that inspire him into universal archetypes and symbols, upon which viewers layer their own perspectives. A shifting “truth” is created when two spirits—that of the artist and that of the viewer—coalesce.

Today, the path to profound understanding of the world around us is often hampered by the anxieties of contemporary living. Our quest to understand our fellow man is fraught with difficult existential questions brought on by chaos, war, and unsettling socio-political situations. Vallien’s series of works inspired by Franz Kafka pay homage to a visionary 20th century author who mingled realism and fantasy, and whose protagonists struggled through surrealistic circumstances in search of salvation. In Kafka III, a golden figure is trapped in an ashen cave that is part primitive spearhead part wire barrier system. His aura struggles to overcome the harsh cage, glimpses of his gilded light cleaving the surface.

Kafka III,  by Bertil Vallien

One series of works by Vallien was inspired by an aerial photograph of a bombed out village in northern Iraq that he saw in a newspaper. Much has been destroyed in the commission of war, from homes to lives to ancient cultural treasures. Abode II is an imagined archaeological excavation of a post-apocalyptic world, where the earth is turned inside out, its soul exposed and its ability to safely house man thrown into limbo. Landed IV is a hybrid milieu of runic designs, emerging earthly elements, and modern shiny architecture—all presided over by a white flag of surrender.

Landed IV, 2017

The Roman God Janus, the god of transition, gateways, and duality, oversaw the beginning and end of conflict; the doors of his temple would be open in times of war and close to mark the onset of peace. He also opened and closed heaven’s doors, his two faces simultaneously administering over both the past and the future. Vallien’s Janus sculptures have rough-hewn stone-like carved facades on one side and smooth transparent arcs on the reverse, within which images of closed-eye faces are suspended in the glass. This interest in the transitory nature of life has also inspired Vallien’s boat works. The elegant Apostroph II also reflects a sense of adventure and the more winsome side of exploring the unknown. Vallien has written that he makes boats “that sink through memories and dreams, [that] require not latitudes to navigate by; they steer towards the horizon of imagination.” He encourages his various travelers (and by association, us) to “put his trust in the delicate skin that separates him from the unknown.”

Janus Y, 2017

Franz Kafka lamented “how pathetically scanty my self-knowledge is compared with, say, my knowledge of my room. There is no such thing as observation of the inner world, as there is of the outer world.” Kafka may in some ways be an intellectual forbear for Vallien, but to this philosophical perspective the artist brings an innate ability to ruminate on the inner world, both for himself and his viewer. The dualities of this world are nimbly unveiled in the work: dark and light; past and future; rough and smooth; light and heavy. Through both physical expression and symbolic associations, Vallien senses the world from the inside out and opens up this channel of experience to his viewer. Definitive answers become unnecessary, and an enlightened, empathetic, and open-minded ethos rises up.
—Jeanne V.  Koles for Schantz Galleries, Stockbridge, MA

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Celebrating Lino Tagliapietra in Stockbridge!

This gallery contains 55 photos.

July 6&7, 2017, we celebrated the Maestro in Stockbridge with all our friends! Continue reading

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2017 June Weekend Glass Demo Photo Album

This gallery contains 31 photos.

Thank you Amy Lynn for these nice photos of the 2017 Schantz Galleries Collectors Weekend Glass Blowing Event, hosted at Hoogs and Crawford.             

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Made in N.E.

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Dante Marioni and Preston Singletary | Collaborators

View Catalog On our Website

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Curating an Exhibition at the Morris Museum

“Although Lino embodies centuries of Venetian traditions in glass-making techniques, he also continually quests to bring new ideas and approaches to the medium”  –Jim Schantz, director of Schantz Galleries in Stockbridge, Massachusetts.

“The boldness of his vision is why he’s so widely celebrated, married with that technical virtuosity. It’s this combination of tradition and innovation that really sets Lino apart from pretty much anybody else working in glass.”   Andrew Page, managing editor of GLASS Quarterly

It began over a year ago with a conversation between a gallerist and a collector; Jim Schantz and Alan Levitan.   Alan asked after learning that Jim had curated the show at the Bergstrom Mahler Museum of Glass, “How about a show of Lino’s work at the Morris Museum?”

“Of course!” Jim said, “… and we can help with it!”

After hundreds of hours and many phone calls, meetings, committees, detailed lists of arrangements,  The Morris Museum currently showcases a selection of the maestro’s works in the exhibition, Lino Tagliapietra: Maestro of a Glass Renaissance through June 18th. The show features 30 pieces hand-picked by Morris Museum curator Alexandra Willis and Jim Schantz, director of Schantz Galleries.

For the first few months, it was a back and forth between Jim, Alex, and Alan in the beginning, choosing the work from our inventory, deciding which pieces to exhibit, and how to best utilize the space, pedestals, vitrines, and lighting.  After the work was chosen and finalized, Kim Saul, Director of Publications at Schantz Galleries, worked on the catalog.

View Catalog onlineView online catalog.

The exhibition chronicles the past 17 years of Lino Tagliapietra’s career. It includes a survey of his classical Venetian forms and canework, plus a range of examples of his experimental works. Pieces like those in his Dinosaur series meld sculpture with painting, as color and form accentuate and heighten the aesthetic response.

Dinosaur, 2015, 21.5 x 13 x 4.5″

Dinosaur is a seminal work of Lino’s that has become an icon in his repertoire; it’s become a signature form which he goes back to from time to time, while exploring new approaches of essentially ‘drawing’ or ‘painting’ with the glass cane material.

Lina Tagliapietra, Alan Levitan, Lino Tagliapietra, Melanie Levitan and Jacopo Vecchiato, Managing Director for Lino… as well as grandson!

Despite his worldwide acclaim and extensive exhibition record, the Morristown display represents the first solo museum show of Tagliapietra’s work in the New York, New Jersey metropolitan area. This has been a great opportunity for both Lino and the Morris Museum to present this work to both seasoned aficionados and those art enthusiasts new to the medium of glass. In both his life and work, Tagliapietra represents a living bridge between hundreds of years of Venetian glassmaking traditions and the experimental improvisations characteristic of the contemporary glass art movement.

Lino at Schantz GalleriesClodia, 2016, 28 x 12 x 6″

Although Lino embodies centuries of Venetian traditions in glassmaking techniques, he also continually quests to bring new ideas and approaches to the medium. He’s been greatly responsible for the incredible growth in the field of contemporary glass as an art form throughout the past 40 years.

Stelle di Neve, 2015, fused glass panel, 18.75 x 18.75 x 1.5″ Previously exhibited at Bergstrom Mahler Museum of Glass.

The exhibit spotlights Tagliapietra’s work from the 21st century. Since reaching “retirement age,” Tagliapietra has embarked upon a particularly productive period in his career, consolidating and advancing innovations and breakthroughs from earlier times. When curating this exhibition, it was important to focus on works that Lino has created since age 65. During this period he has not only created some of the greatest classical works, but some of the most innovative of his vast career.

Barene, 2012, 48.25 x 27.75 x .75″

The Morris Museum will host a number of special events in conjunction with “Maestro of a Glass Renaissance,” including “The Magic of Glass Through Time,” a historical perspective by Patricia Elaine of the Morris County School of Glass on Wednesday, April 19; a lecture titled “From Murano to Seattle: Lino Tagliapietra’s Journey” by GLASS Magazine Editor, Andrew Page on Sunday, April 23; a “Ladies Night Out” on Wednesday, April 26; and a tour through the exhibition conducted by Jim Schantz on Wednesday, May 17.  Details and ticketing for these and other events are available at the museum’s website.

Tagliapietra and Schantz led a preview tour at the exhibition.

For more information on these or any works in the exhibition, please contact Jim at Schantz Galleries. jim@schantzgalleries.com

Chiocciola, 2008, 16.25 x 18.75 x 7.5″

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Chihuly Gifts Artwork at Tacoma’s Union Station

 

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Chandelier and the Monarch Window at Union Station

Now more than ever, we feel compelled to find and celebrate the good in order to stay hopeful. We are very excited to share the news with you that in late January 2017, Dale and Leslie Chihuly gifted artwork at Union Station (Tacoma, Washington) to the United States. Mayor Strickland and the representatives from the GSA and the Tacoma Art Council recognized Dale and Leslie with a certificate of appreciation, and thanked them for making this amazing body of work accessible to everyone. Dale dedicated the work in memory of his father George, his mother Viola, and his brother George.

Click play for a preview and/or click the link to watch the full video Chihuly at Union Station.

It’s so great that Leslie and I could donate these installations to the GSA so people will forever go into that beautiful restoration and see my artwork there and the beautiful views of Mount Rainier… – Dale Chihuly

Thank you, Dale and Leslie, for your generosity and inspiration.

Click here to watch the full video on Chihuly’s Vimeo page.

To see more of Chihuly’s work, click here.

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