Lino Tagliapietra’s visit to Pilchuck Glass School in Stanwood, Washington, in the late 1970s was a game-changer. His willingness to share glassblowing techniques regarded as Muranese secrets with American artists hungry for knowledge was one of the most important seeds of the Studio Glass movement’s growth. For Tagliapietra, the Americans planted a seed also, one that would encourage him to leave his career working in Italian glass factories and transform himself into an independent glassblower and artist.
Since 1990, the Maestro has created some of the world’s most recognizable blown glass, represented by prestigious museums including the De Young Museum, San Francisco, California; the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, UK; the Metropolitan Museum, New York, New York, as well as by numerous galleries and private collections.
Tagliapietra’s awards and honors are innumerable and include his 2006 Distinguished Educator Award presented by the James Renwick Alliance of Washington D.C. In 2011, the Istituto Veneto di Scienze, Lettere e Arti in Venice held an exhibition Lino Tagliapietra from Murano to Studio Glass, and in 2015 bestowed upon him the coveted Career Award. Tagliapietra holds two honorary degrees and the title PhD of Fine Arts from Ohio State University. In 2012 the Maestro was chosen for the renowned Phoenix Award. In 2014 he was presented with the Visionary Award at Art Palm Beach, Florida, followed by the Best Glass Work Award, Masterpiece exhibition, London, UK.
Tagliapietra is widely revered as the Maestro of glassblowing, an inspiring teacher, and the elder statesman linking the glass centers of Venice, Italy, and the Pacific Northwest. Vessels, installations, panels, and Avventurina comprise his current body of work. His 2017 exhibition schedule includes Sandra Ainsley Gallery, Toronto, Ontario, from May 13 through August 6; and Lino Tagliapietra, Master of a Glass Renaissance, Morris Museum, Morristown, now through June 18. The New Jersey exhibition will showcase approximately 30 Tagliapietra masterpieces in collaboration with Schantz Galleries.
Widely regarded as one of the godfathers of the functional glass community, Banjo works glass in a torch to create mind-blowing psychedelic sculpture that transcends its functionality. In doing so, the artist has attracted a legion of faithful fans and collectors, many who do not smoke marijuana.
Banjo’s glasswork brings to life interdimensional biomechanical deities that represent the emergence of sacred feminine energy within the post-modern techno-industrial matrix. He also pays homage to pop culture, crafting thousand-plus piece Transformer robots, motorcycles, cars, and Star Wars characters in borosilicate glass.
Though it’s happening, Banjo and his contemporaries don’t need gallery support or acceptance from the mainstream art world in order to sell their work. The functional glass community has always been tightly woven with the fibers of social networking. With over 150,000 followers on Instagram, hungry collectors devour Banjo’s new work the minute images appear online.
“Pipe-makers, glassblowers, and even glass collectors make up an entirely new class of cannabis celebrity,” wrote Ben Parker Karris, editor and correspondent for Kind Stash, Los Angeles, California. “With the nationwide legalization of marijuana, more artists will be inspired to enter the glass industry, because the demand for pieces is growing so quickly. This heightened demand creates a rise in the value of the work as well. Artists who were once barely earning money for their work are sometimes pulling in as much as $30,000 per piece.”
In 2016, Banjo had his first solo exhibition, Sacramental Vessels, held October 8 through November 13, 2016 at Gregorio Escalante Gallery in Los Angeles, California. Featured alongside other visionary works by Alex and Allyson Grey, Amanda Sage, Chris Dyer, and Luke Brown, Banjo’s android-goddesses snuggled in amongst their pistons and gears, represent harbingers of another incremental step towards normalizing and celebrating marijuana culture as part of creative life. Goddesses in vibrant transparent colors mingled with those created in opaque glass, each one surrounded by the hundreds of detailed nuts, bolts, screws, and knobs of Banjo’s mega-mechanisms.
In terms of industry growth over the next few years, many believe the functional glass movement has a chance to become one of the biggest art movements in recent history. According to Banjo, the government called glass pipes a billon dollar industry as far back as 2003. He estimates that currently between five and 10 functional glass artists are earning half a million dollars per year, with over 300 artists bringing in over 100K each.
Nice and tidy.