Chris Ahalt sculpts in meticulous detail and bright colors his animal balloon series, depicting visually strong animals made fragile by delicately balancing them above on a wire. Hours of intensive work result in deceptively simple animal balloons featuring hollow glass sculptures of African and Asian elephants, black and white rhinos, giraffes, hippos, sharks, and whales, to name a few. Ahalt’s sandblasted glass is strung up on copper wire embellished with hand-forged ridges that emulate real ribbon and tethered to small weights. The flexibility of the wire enhances the illusion as the glass balloon sways back and forth.
Says Ahalt: “Balloons suggest celebration, children, and wonder. The iconic animals that I pick appeal to those child-like sensibilities. Most of us grow up with a favorite animal, and the idea of turning one’s favorite animal into a balloon seems a fitting marriage that is hard to dislike. These animal balloons also metaphorically speak to their fragile lives, many of them endangered. Some of the balloons, such as the rhino, have their legs bound alluding to the precarious environments created for them by humans. I think of these animal balloons as a mixture of playfulness and harsh reality – homage to not only the iconic beauty of these majestic animals, but also as tribute to the many endangered species that may not survive.”
Ahalt graduated from the Minneapolis College of Art and Design with a BFA in Sculpture/ Furniture Design,and currently lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota, where he specializes in custom glassware, vases, sculpture, lighting, prototyping, and commissioned work. He has taught numerous glassblowing workshops nationally and has two coming up this summer- Taming the Beastat The Chrysler Museum’s Perry Glass Studio, Norfolk, Virginia, July 6 – 11, and Pushing the Bubbleat the Toledo Museum of Art, Toledo, Ohio, August 12 - 16. The artist’s work was featured in the 2011 March/April issue of American Craft Magazine.
Initially introduced to the world of flameworking by his good friend Repo in 1998, Ahalt’s career in flameworking was cemented by a 2005 trip to Venice, Italy, where he apprenticed under renowned master flameworker, Cesare Toffolo. The young artist learned to use jacks and diamond shears in the flame, a unique flameworking approach pioneered by Toffolo. Working in Italy had a huge impact on Ahalt, who has dedicated his career to matching the perfection of form and thinness of Venetian glass.
Two Dimensional Biographies by Amir H. Fallah
Los Angeles based painter Amir H. Fallah renders two-dimensional biographies of his subjects using alternative imagery to create a visual language that helps us understand who a person is. Though surrounded by intimate belongings, the faces and bodies of Fallah’s subjects are covered in highly ornate fabric, turning everything we know about portraiture upside-down.
Brainard Carey wrote, in Praxis Interviewmagazine: “Portraits of the artist’s veiled subjects employ ambiguity to skillfully weave fact and fiction like the textiles that cover them. While the stories that surround his muses are deeply personal, as told through the intimate possessions the subjects are encompassed by, they universalize generational experiences of movement, trauma, and celebration. With their Pop Art hues and investment in domestic life, Fallah’s paintings wryly incorporate contemporary American tropes into paintings more formally rooted in Islamic Art, including the organization and arabesque embellishment of Persian miniatures. In doing so, his work possesses a hybridity that reflects his own background as an Iranian- American immigrant straddling cultures.”
In 2017, Judson Studios translated two of Fallah’s paintings into stained glass. Embracing the World, the artist’s stained and fused glass self-portrait, alludes to Renaissance paintings of mother and child. An homage to his son, the piece was sold before the opening of Fallah’s solo show at Shulamit Nazarian Gallery in LA. A second Judson collaboration, entitled Offering, features Fallah’s portrait of an Iranian artist who came to America to pursue her art career the day after The Supreme Court upheld Trump’s Muslim ban.
Fallah received his BFA in Fine Art and Painting at the Maryland Institute College of Art in 2001 and his MFA in Painting at the University of California, Los Angeles in 2005. He has exhibited extensively in solo and group exhibitions across the United States and abroad, including solo presentations at the Schneider Museum, Ashland, Oregon (2017); the San Diego Art Institute (2017); the Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art, Overland, Kansas, (2015); and The Third Line, Dubai (2017, 2013, 2009, 2007, 2005). The recipient of the 2017 California Community Foundation Grant and 2015 Joan Mitchell Foundation Painters and Sculptors Grant, the artist was chosen to participate in the 9th Sharjah Biennial. This event enriches the cultural landscape of the Gulf by commissioning, producing, and presenting innovative and challenging art experiences for the United Arab Emirates community while offering an internationally recognized platform for artists from the region.
As his work attracts new collectors in painting and glass, Fallah will participate in three solo exhibitions in 2019-2020: the first in August 2019, at Dio Horia gallery in Greece; then in January 2020 at MOCA Tucson; followed by April 2020 at Shulamit Nazarian Gallery in Los Angeles. The artist is currently working with Judson Studios on a large public stained glass project for LA City to be unveiled in 2021.
Susie J. Silbert, curator of Modern and Contemporary Glass at The Corning Museum of Glass, is trained in glass working and design history. Prior to joining the Museum in 2016, Silbert was an independent curator and writer motivated by the complex and intertwined histories of material, making, and makers. Silbert earned her MA in Decorative Arts, Design History, and Material Culture from the Bard Graduate Center and taught History of Glass at the Rhode Island School of Design. Her most recent exhibition New Glass Now, is a groundbreaking survey of the landscape of contemporary glass.
The first exhibition of its kind organized by the Museum in 40 years, New Glass Now represents artists of 32 nationalities working in 25 countries ranging in ages from 23 to 84. On view from May 12, 2019, through January 5, 2020, the show includes large-scale installations and delicate miniatures, video and experiments in glass chemistry, all of which demonstrate the vitality and versatility of this dynamic material.
New Glass Now is the third exhibition in a groundbreaking series organized by the Museum to survey contemporary glass on an international scale. Glass 1959 and New Glass: A Worldwide Survey, organized in 1959 and 1979, respectively, played an important role in creating and defining the field of contemporary glass. The 1959 exhibition helped lay the foundation for what became the Studio Glass Movement just a few years later in 1962, and the 1979 show spurred collecting by institutions and private individuals, new scholarly attention, and continued artistic innovation. The 1959 and 1979 exhibitions will be revisited in an exhibition, titled New Glass Now/ Context, in CMoG’s Rakow Library, which complements the exhibition of contemporary glass simultaneously on view.
Karol Wight, President and Executive Director of The Corning Museum of Glass, said: “New Glass Now continues a more than 60-year commitment to share the history of the medium over more than 35 centuries, including the contemporary development of art and design realized in glass. The exhibitions that CMoG curated in 1959 and 1979 defined the field of Studio Glass and brought critical attention to the work being done by glassmakers the world over. We hope that New Glass Now will continue this important tradition and reveal exciting new insights into work being made today across the globe.”
Coinciding with the opening of the exhibition, CMoG will publish the 40th anniversary issue of New Glass Review, its annual exhibition-in-print of contemporary glass. Published since 1979, New Glass Review has brought important critical and popular attention to the material and the artists and designers working with it. The 2019 edition will include the 100 artworks and design objects chosen for the contemporary survey New Glass Now as well as important contextual essays and information.
Working seven days a week at Vitrum became a strain that left Conway and O’Toole with no time to create or even think about their own art. Though the partners hated the idea of closing the doors and losing contact with their staff and students, at the end of 2016 the time had come.
It didn’t take long for Conway and O’Toole to realize that they could take everything they had developed over 15 years of teaching at Vitrum Studio and transform it into a collection of eBooks for the fusing community. A natural extension of Vitrum Studio’s classes, these eBooks contain beautifully-crafted projects and richly illustrated step-by-step instructions that delve deeply into the process of each project, exploring how and why each technique works. Currently available titles include StripCut Reimagined: Books 1, 2 and 3, and Finding Place: Light and Landscape Books 1 and 2. Conway and O’Toole have begun work on their sixth eBook, Optic Topics, with instruction on creating intricate patterns with stringers, and are in the research phase for their seventh eBook, to be titled either Powder Imagery or Botanical Portraits in Glass.