By suspending creatures in moments of tension and recalling the myths and legends with which they are associated, Shelley Muzylowski Allen reminds us that nature is precious and in many ways fleeting. From the red gazelle to Asian and African elephants, some of her subjects face extinction or have been forever lost in the tides of time, taking with them some of humanity’s finest qualities.
Relying upon her background as a painter and an understanding of anatomy, Muzylowski Allen creates impressionistic or contemplative expressions and vignettes. In combination with sumptuous coloring and the acid etched surfaces of glass, her forms inspire a remarkable and powerful influence on human feeling.
Born in Manitoba, Canada, Muzylowski Allen never considered working with glass until a co-worker remarked that her paintings would translate well to three dimensions. After taking a course at Pilchuck Glass School, Stanwood, Washington, it quickly became evident that the artist had found in hot glass the perfect material for her painterly approach. Her textures, patterns, and gesture of brushwork enrich strong, three-dimensional forms.
Muzylowski Allen worked with the William Morris sculpture team in Washington State as a glass sculpting assistant from 1998 through 2004. In 2005, she established a glass and sculpture studio with her husband, artist Rik Allen, at their property in Skagit County, Washington. The couple has taught internationally at the Toyama Institute of Glass in Japan; Nuutajarvii Lasikyla, Finland; and the International Glass Festival in Stourbridge, England, as well as in the US at the Penland School of Craft; Pittsburgh Glass Center; and at Pilchuck.
Muzylowski Allen has been awarded Provincial and Canada Council grants. Her work is held nationally and internationally in public institutions and private collections. In 2008, she had a solo exhibition at the Museum of Northwest Art in La Conner, Washington, Modern Menagerie. Other selected shows include The San Juan Museum of Art, northwest Washington; Blue Rain Gallery, Santa Fe and Scottsdale; Habatat Galleries, Michigan; Traver Gallery, Seattle; and Schantz Galleries, Massachusetts. In 2012, Muzylowski Allen was a guest artist at Studio Salvadore in Murano, Italy, where she collaborated with artist Davide Salvadore on a series of large-scale sculptures.
Whether living things such as the beloved and revered horse or creatures associated with magic and mythology such as the unicorn, Muzylowski Allen renders her menagerie in states of grace, repose, or movement. They are transitory, by their choice or by ours. These archetypal symbols reflect not only the artist’s insights and experiences but inspire a deeply emotional connection for the viewer.
It’s interesting to contemplate the many obstacles to liberty - past, present, and future. Walking through the glass gallery of the National Liberty Museum (NLM), home to Maurice Gareau’s biblical glass scenes in stained glass, one remembers the colonists who came to America seeking religious freedom. Having escaped persecution in Europe, their challenge then became how to live in peace with others who did not share their beliefs. The NLM’s glass chess set by Gianni Toso includes flameworked pieces arranged in groups, as if conspiring to find answers to the complicated dilemmas that the search for liberty generates.
Located in the heart of historic Philadelphia, the National Liberty Museum is dedicated to preserving America’s heritage of freedom by encouraging people to find their own place in the story of liberty. Visitors to the Museum enjoy an inspiring and entertaining experience, as they interact with incredible stories of heroes and a collection of contemporary glass art including a 20-foot tall glass art sculpture entitled Flame of Liberty by Dale Chihuly.
The National Liberty Museum first opened its doors to the public in January 2000. An independent learning and exhibit center, the museum is supported by visitors, community leaders, and foundations. Core themes include leadership and good character, diversity and inclusion, peaceful conflict resolution, and civic engagement.
In the Spring of 2017, the NLM sponsored a temporary exhibit titled The Treachery of Images: A Glass Art Exhibition. This exhibit pushed the limits of artistic respectability by showcasing the work of pipe makers and embracing the challenges they face in their efforts to be accepted within the art world. Later in the podcast, you’ll hear from pipemaker Jeremy Grant Levine, also known as Germ.
The NLM’s current GlassAccess Temporary Exhibit, Transparency: An LGBT+Q Glass Art Exhibition began in June runs through August 6, 2017. To celebrate Pride 2017, the National Liberty Museum hosted the nation’s first museum exhibit of studio glass works produced exclusively by artists of the LGBTQ community. Later in the podcast you’ll hear from participating artists Tim Tate, Jenny Pohlman and Sabrina Knowles.
We begin our podcast tour of the National Liberty Museum's history, goals, and exhibitions with glass department manager, Meegan Coll.