Geometry and the projection of light have always been key components of Debora Coombs’ artwork. In 2013 she began exploring mathematical projections as a way to understand shifts between dimensions of space. Working from Penrose tiling (a two-dimensional shadowof a five-dimensional lattice), 3D sculptures in glass and paper were built using her classic design skills to explore various aspects of mathematics.
A number of high-profile residencies have allowed Coombs to explore these new concepts. In the spring of 2016, she did a month-long collaborative residency with computer scientist Duane Bailey, and in October, a 2-week residency at Assets for Artists: The Studiosat MASS MoCAat the Massachusetts Museum for Contemporary Art, North Adams, Massachusetts.
In 2017, a 3-week residency at Carroll College, Helena, Montana, allowed the artist to focus on the theological symbolism of geometry, which resulted in a commission for 85 square feet of hand painted geometric stained glass windows for All Saints, the new chapel on campus. That same year, Coombs spent a month at Jentel Artist Residencyin Banner, Wyoming, making a series of math-based drawings that led to the discovery of a new geometric figure.
In February 2018, Coombs was invited by artist Lauren Bon of the Metabolic Studiosin Los Angeles, California, to spend two weeks collaborating and contributing to a landscape project for redirecting LA’s river water for the irrigation of city parks. In April, she presented this and other recent work at the 13th Biennial Gathering for Gardnerin Atlanta, Georgia, an international conference for mathematicians and artists. Then in May 2018, longtime New Yorker staff-writer Lawrence Weschler invited Coombs to speak at the Tamarind Institutein Albuquerque, New Mexico, as part of his Wonder Cabinet, a gathering of artists who work in close association with scientists.
Coombs’ award-winning stained glass has been exhibited, commissioned and collected internationally for over 30 years. A Fellow of the British Society of Master Glass Painters, the artist studied stained glass at Edinburgh College of Art, Scotland; University of Wales, Swansea; and received her Master’s degree from the Royal College of Art in London, England, 1985. An experienced educator, Coombs directed the glass department at Chelsea College of Art in London from 1994 to 1996. She has lectured and taught stained glass for professional associations and colleges including Pilchuck Glass School, Stained Glass Association of America, American Glass Guild, and the British Society of Master Glass Painters. Her religious commissions include two 25-foot-tall figurative windows for Marble Collegiate Church in Manhattan, 20 stained glass windows for St. Mary’s Cathedral in Portland, Oregon, and 4 windows for St. Henry’s Catholic Church in Nashville, Tennessee.
Rare in the stained glass world, Coombs has successfully extended her devotion to content and story-telling to her non-commissioned work. Her piece, “Ornithologist,” from her 2009 Menfolk series, was included in New Glass Review 31, The Corning Museum of Glass publication dedicated to presenting cutting edge works of glass art. Her solo exhibition titled Menfolk, opened at the Jeanetta Cochrane Theater Gallery in London, England, before traveling to the Stained Glass Museum at Ely Cathedral, Cambridgeshire, England, in the spring of 2010. That same year, Coombs completed a collaborative work with artist Michael Oatman as part of his mixed-media installation “All Utopias Fell,” which remains permanently on exhibit at MASS MoCA.
In June 2018 Coombs ran a hands-on pilot project for children and community members at the J Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, and contributed to a panel discussion chaired by Margaret Wertheim from the Institute For Figuring about the connections between art and mathematics. The focus of this one-day conference was STEM to STEAM; practical ways to bring the A for Art into STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) programs in education.
In November 2018, Coombs completed two stained glass windows with geometric themes for Carroll College, Helena, Montana. Work continues on three more windows, scheduled for completion in February 2021. The artist’s sculptures are currently on exhibition at the Schow Science Library in Williams College, Williamstown, Massachusetts.
Jane Bruce is an independent artist and educator based in New York City. She teaches and exhibits internationally and her dual careers of artist and maker have taken her around the world, from Europe to the USA, to Australia and back again. Bruce works in a range of techniques to create objects and mini installations, primarily through the processes of kiln forming, blowing and coldworking glass.
Born in England, Bruce received a Master of Arts from the Royal College of Art, London, and undertook further postgraduate study at the New York State College of Ceramics at Alfred. She has been the recipient of a range of fellowships, visiting artist awards and grants, including fellowships from the Creative Glass Center of America and the New York Foundation for the Arts; artist-in-residence at The Studio of The Corning Museum of Glass, visiting artist at Museum of Glass, Tacoma, and a New Work Grant from the Australia Council. Exhibiting internationally, her work can be found in many major museum collections worldwide, including those of the Victoria and Albert Museum, London; European Museum of Modern Glass (Europaisches Museum fur Modernes Glas, Kunstsammlunger der Veste Coburg) Germany; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; The Corning Museum of Glass, New York; Toledo Museum of Art, Ohio; and The Powerhouse Museum, Sydney, Australia.
As an educator, Bruce served as senior lecturer in the Glass Workshop of the Australian National University Canberra School of Art (1994 - 2001) and was Head of Workshop (2001-2003). She was artistic and technical director for Northlands Creative Glass, Caithness, Scotland (2003-2007) and continues to organize annual symposiums there for British and international artists and students. She has also taught workshops in the US at UrbanGlass in Brooklyn, New York, Bullseye Glass Co., in Portland, Oregon, and Pilchuck Glass School, Stanwood, Washington.
Bruce’s Vase, Bottle, Bowl series furthered the artist’s exploration of the vessel, which is deeply rooted in the history of the decorative or applied arts. Interested in the essential object, she reduces the vessel to its central and fundamental parts and attributes. She says: “If I were to pick an adjective to describe this work, it might be formal. As well as abstracting the vessel and presenting its elemental nature, it is also important as to how composition, color, light, proportion, and the juxtaposition of positive and negative space work within the object, and how a group of objects form a resolved statement.”
On the other hand, Bruce’s Houseseries explored a more personal concern related to landscape and loss in a particular place. In what became known as The Clearances, (1760-1830), the Highlands of Scotland were emptied and became a wilderness. Even today, with many ruined crofts still dotting the Caithness landscape, there continues to be a strong sense of loss and desolation in that place. “Inspired by this history and what remains, the current house forms seek to evoke thoughts of loss, the past and what might have been.”
Bruce is working on two related series currently categorized as Indefinite Objectsand Deep Space Panels, both addressing deep and never-ending space. As the viewer moves around the works they seem to change and reconfigure as the viewer’s viewpoint changes. These new series will be on view in an exhibition titled Constructs: The Thing About Space Is That It Just Keeps Going, at River House Arts, Toledo, Ohio, from October 4 – November 16, 2019. Although these new works contain very little glass, and the Deep Space panels contain none at all, they are about space and light, which Bruce considers to be inherent qualities of glass.
From November 5 through December 10, 2019, Bruce will teach her workshop, Color, Light, Glass: An Introduction to Kilnformed Glass at UrbanGlass. In June 2020, the artist will travel to North Lands Creative Glass for an international artist symposium that will look at issues of home and place and which she founded and has coordinated since 2010.
Whether a chameleon, a crested kingfisher or a Cristo Rhinoceros hornbill, Devin Somerville’s high-end art pipes begin with custom millies that are stacked and assembled into mind-blowing and unforgettable creatures. Also known as Crunklestein, the artist’s take on the ancient Italian technique of millefiore has become his aesthetic signature. Once a process amongst many used by Crunklestein, when friends, fans, and fellow artists came face to face with his colorful, ornate millie pipes, the artist was encouraged to make all of his work using the chip stack technique he developed.
Somerville,aka Cap’n Crunk Glass, resides in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and produces a variety of dab rig styles, specializing in the mini or tiny tube design. His small dab rigs usually include mini encased millies throughout the neck and body of the piece, while his full sized incredibly detailed and realistic sculpted oil rigs showcase his unlimited range of talent and creativity.
Blowing glass since before the year 2000, Crunklestein currently creates the largest work of his career for an exhibition and workshop to be presented at Level 42 Gallery in Asheville, North Carolina. On Friday, August 16, from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., Somerville will teach his millie making techniques, and on Saturday, August 18, his stacking and sculpting processes. Later Saturday evening, an exhibition of new Crunklestein functional glass and collabs opens at Level 42 Gallery.
Amongst other career highlights, Somerville is the only two-time champion of The Bern Gallery’s Pipe Classic, held in Burlington, Vermont, each of the last 14 years.The Pipe Classic is the world’s first and longest running pipe-making competition, bringing together 12 of the world’s most prolific pipe-makers for an annual event that forever changed competitive pipe-making as we know it. Names are made, heroes are born, and champions are crowned. This year’s field features three past champions, and a who’s-who of the medium’s masters. Twelve artists, 12 hours, 12 pipes, one champion! Be there at Pipe Classic 14, held September 23 – 29, 2019.
The Permission of the Mind
Howard Ben Tré
Using methods learned in his metal-foundry class at Brooklyn Technical High School, Howard Ben Tré pioneered the art of casting molten glass long before YouTube tutorials and Facebook casting groups existed. His hands-on technical innovations changed what was possible in cast glass and allowed Ben Tré to create career defining monumental sculptures that could survive the rigors of outdoor installation.
Among Ben Tré’s public commissions are the award-winning installation of fountains and seating created for Post Office Square Park in Boston; the plaza and sculpture for BankBoston’s headquarters in downtown Providence; an interactive fountain for the hall of the renovated Mary Baker Eddy Library in Boston; the pedestrianization and street scheme redesign of Warrington Town Center in England; and plazas with sculpture/fountains and landscaping for Target Corporation Headquarters in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Whether casting glass for public spaces or personal series, Ben Tré found inspiration in the geometry of ancient ritual objects and historical architecture. His Wrapped Forms (1998 - 2000) evoke the relics and customs of Asian ritual while Lightness of Being (2008) juxtaposes fragility and strength, masculine and feminine. As light is transmitted, diffused, and refracted through the dense glass mass, Ben Tré’s sculpture takes on a mysterious life of its own. Sections of the glass were treated with gold leaf either on the surface or by installing gold leaf covered lead bars within the glass matrix, adding to the magic.
Public and personal work plays off one another, sparking new ideas and forms. In fact, they emanate from the same source— Ben Tré’s desire to use art to bring people together in our collective humanity. Whether viewed in a public square or a private gallery, his cast glass returns us to the realm where utopian visions and social ideals don’t seem so foolish. Ben Tréreminds us that if we give our minds permission, anything is possible.
Ben Tré’s work is included in numerous private collections in the US, Europe and Asiaand in more than 101 museum and public collections worldwide, among them the Metropolitan Museum of Art; the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; the Philadelphia Museum of Art; the National Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto; and the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Nice. He has been featured in 54 solo exhibitions in the U.S. and abroad, including a ten-year retrospective organized by the Phillips Collection in Washington, DC, that traveled nationally, and a retrospective exhibition at the Glass Art Museum in Toyama, Japan. Other one-person exhibitions of sculptures and drawings include those organized by the Musée d’Art Moderne et d’Art Contemporain in Nice; the David Winton Bell Gallery at Brown University; the Toledo Museum of Art; and the Cleveland Center for Contemporary Art.
Born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1949, Ben Tré received a B.S.A. from Portland State University, Portland, Oregon, in 1978 and a M.F.A from the Rhode Island School of Design in 1980. He is a three-time recipient of the National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship and a three-time recipient of the Rhode Island State Council on the Arts Fellowship. His achievements in the visual arts were recognized by the First Annual Pell Awards for Excellence in the Arts (1996), the Artist Award of Distinction by the National Council of Art Administrators (2005), and the Aileen Osborn Webb Award (2006). His public art has been recognized with awards by the Providence Preservation Society for Urban Design (1998), the British Council for Shopping Centres for Town Centre Environment (2002), and the Royal Town Planning Institute for Best Urban Design Project (2002).
Currently 40 years of drawings, works on paper, lecture notes and a number of sculptures in the Ben Tre’ collection dating back to 1977 are being assembled and archived for research purposes.