To behold Lino Tagliapietra’s glass art is to perceive pure beauty, inspired by the magnificence of the artist’s surroundings, travels, and experiences. In his 1753 volume Analysis of Beauty, English painter and writer William Hogarth (1697-1764) laid out the six principles that affect our perception of beauty: fitness (fitting parts of a whole elegantly together); variety (blending shapes and colors harmoniously); uniformity (balancing symmetry with shifting perspectives); simplicity (discarding superfluous elements); intricacy (leading the eye with thoughtful composition); and quantity (inspiring awe through grandness). Hogarth’s ground-breaking tome also described the serpentine “line of beauty,” an s-shaped curve used in art that awakens the viewer and is pleasing to behold. Flawlessly orchestrating all six of Hogarth’s tenets and deftly employing the “line of beauty,” each work by Tagliapietra beguiles the viewer, transporting them to a place of unadulterated grace.
The Fenice series epitomizes the lively allure of the curving line. Impossibly elongated pulls of glass twist dynamically through the air. Hot reds give way to fiery oranges, which cool to deep blues, manifesting the myriad colors of flame as the glass phoenix rises. The interplay of curves in the installation of three Fenice works reveals myriad expressions as the viewer moves around the piece. Equally in the Dinosaur works, a sense of infinity defies their physical boundaries. The magnificence of the extinct beasts are expressed, softened through graceful bends in their necks and modernized through the graphic patterns of the glass. A repetition of circles plays delightfully against the kaleidoscopic swathes of color that surround the surfaces.
The graceful arcing forms of the Forcola works are also enhanced by undulating layers of design. Concentric circles—in some cases from a single color family, in others from complimentary hues—stretch like taffy to reveal the exquisite patterns inlaid in the glass. So named because their shape artfully recalls the rowlocks of Venetian gondolas, the Forcola works—like so many by Tagliapietra—expressively celebrate a place of affection for the artist.
Geography has had a considerable influence on the artist, who has traveled the world extensively to work and teach; each location leaves its mark on his soul and in his work. Recalling woven African baskets in form and pattern, the globular Africa vase sits nimbly on a narrow foot and revels in a vibrant, jewel-like palette. Rippled “lines of beauty” wind their way up the vase in both directions, culminating in a vivid blue lip of gently waving canes. The rolling swells of a sand dune are captured in the intricate Sahara, its amber coloring punctuated by an azure oasis. Like the blue sea that gives way to the volcano for which they are named, the Stromboli works erupt with cascading cerulean lava, punctuated by frenetic green swirls and daubs of crimson.
Just as Tagliapietra brings a unique perspective to the places he visits by rendering them abstractly in glass, so he brings his forward-looking ideology to artistic traditions. A long-lost glass making technique using avventurine glass is reborn in Tagliapietra’s hands. In a triumph of alchemy, suspended metal in the glass infuses the material with shimmering luster. Hogarth wrote that “simplicity gives beauty even to variety.” In the Avventurine works, minimal and classical shapes are brilliantly juxtaposed with a mosaic of swirling, sparkling designs.
Whether by the 18th century standards of a thinker like Hogarth, or by modern codes, Lino Tagliapietra is a master of beauty. To combine centuries-old traditions with contemporary explorations of the medium, to pay homage to the intimate places he knows and the faraway worlds he has visited, and to do so with such an inherent understanding of what makes things beautiful—this is a true gift. Tagliapietra’s sumptuously articulated forms and dazzling designs are masterfully balanced yet playful. A “line of beauty” unfurls in front of our eyes in each work and in the body of work as a whole.