Dark and beautiful, Bertil Vallien’s sculpture takes the viewer on a mystical journey through the subconscious. Part oracle, part art object - his boats, maps and heads reveal existential secrets through a series of symbols and codes embedded in a glass matrix that appears to contain light. Sweden’s most innovative and well-known contemporary glass artist, Vallien pioneered sand casting in the 1980s and began creating sculptures in glass that inspired his now famous quote: “Glass eats light.”
Born in 1938 in Sollentuna, a suburb north of Stockholm, Vallien studied ceramics at the Konstfack School of Arts, Crafts, and Design in Stockholm, then spent two years at the School for Advanced Industrial Design. At Konstfack, he graduated at the top of his class and was awarded a Royal Foundation grant. His love of ceramics took him to Los Angeles for a position with HAL Fromholt Ceramics, and soon he was meeting artists, critics, and gallery owners, attending events at California universities, and exhibiting his ceramics. In 1963, he was invited back to Sweden by the C.H. Åfors glass-factory, where he contributed to a successful reorganization of the company and designed many of their most well-known lines.
Vallien’s introduction to glass offered artistic opportunities that were lacking in ceramics, and blowing glass became central to his work. He describes it as, “ladling matter out of a volcano and watching the glowing lava turn into ice.” His work has a symbolic and mystical narrative, in which the human head, boats, maps, stars, crosses, bridges, pyramids, and rings play recurring roles. Sometimes the light-absorbing glass is transparent like a membrane that allows vision into the spaces within. At other times it is translucent to represent how our understanding can at times be clouded.
From California to Israel, Vallien has exhibited around the world including The State Heritage Museum (St. Petersburg, Russia); the National Museum (Stockholm, Sweden); the Victoria and Albert Museum (London, England); the Art Institute of Chicago (IL); the National Museum of Modern Art (Kyoto, Japan); the Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, NY); the Powerhouse Museum (Sydney, Australia); and the Museum of Fine Arts (Boston, MA). He has received numerous awards, such as: Prince Eugen’s medal for Outstanding Achievement in the Arts (1995); an Honorary Doctorate from the University of Vaxjö (2002); the Gold Medal from the Royal Academy of Science, Stockholm (2005); and the Libenski Award, Seattle (2008).
At 82, Vallien is still active as a creating artist. In 2018, he exhibited new work at Spritmuseum, Stockholm, in an exhibition titled, Under ytan (Under the Surface). The art objects were made in a coarse-cut black glass that suggested an archaeological excavation of a desolate civilization. Wrecked ships and desolate landscapes stood on pedestals in a dark room with a light source above it.
On February 8, 2020, during Imagine Museum’s Fire and Light Gala, Trish Duggan, Founder and President of Imagine Museum, presented Vallien with the “Artist of the Future” award, based upon his undaunted journey as an artist looking toward the future while continuing to aspire other artists in new ways of expression and communication. “Bertil’s vision about the future and his unbound curiosity about what lies ahead puts him far ahead many of the younger artists working in the field today,” said Duggan about the award recipient.
Continuing down his prolific path, on May 14, 2020, Vallien’s exhibition Surface Tension opens at Gallery Glas in Stockhom. His show Anhalt will be on view at VIDA Museum and Art Gallery, Borgholm, Sweden, beginning May 23. The artist is also preparing for his demo at the Glass Art Society (GAS) conference in Smaland, Sweden, May 20-23, where he will be presented with GAS’ Visionary Award.
Defying familiar branding practices, Snic Barnes prefers exploring uncharted aesthetic and technical territory, creating works that range from electroplated pipes reminiscent of Steampunk machines to his current complex functional sculpture incorporating varied motifs. The combination of his unique style and groundbreaking processes put this pioneer of mixed media pipes on the map beginning in the late 1990s.
A Philadelphia-based artist, Snic discovered glassblowing in 1997 at The Crefeld School. Subsequently the 17-year-old spent a year traveling the East Coast, supporting himself by selling glass pipes at concerts and festivals. These experiences cemented a lifelong involvement in psychedelic counterculture. To advance his glass working skills, in 1999 Snic enrolled at The Appalachian Center for Craft in Smithville, Tennessee, and later studied at the Corning Museum of Glass, Corning, New York.
Snic’s work has been exhibited at the National Liberty Museum, SCOPE Miami, Joseph Gross Gallery, SOFA Art Fair, Habatat Galleries, and Gregorio Escalante Gallery. Media featuring his artwork includes Vice, Juxtapoz, High Times, LA Weekly, Philadelphia Magazine, the Wall Street Journal, Fox News, and the documentary film, Degenerate Art: The Art and Culture of Glass Pipes. The artist was named Central Territory Glass Artist of the year at the 2016 American Glass Expo, won second place in group competition at the 2011 Champs Trade Show, and first place at the 2009 Pipe Classic. He has instructed at Pilchuck Glass School, Philadelphia Glassworks, Ontario’s Edy Roy Gallery, and Lunar Cycle in Tokyo.
This Saturday, February 15, 2020, Piece of Mind in Orange County presents Organized Confusion, an exhibition featuring new solo work by Snic as well as collaborative pieces by artists from California and across the country. The artist will present a live glassblowing demo in the gallery during the opening reception, held February 15, 2020. VIP 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. (ticket purchase required), public from 7 p.m. to 12 a.m.
Bay Area artist Tali Grinshpan seeks to create intimate spaces of reflection where the past speaks to the transient present. In her 2019 solo show at Bullseye Bay Area Gallery titled Longing for the (Home)Land כיסופים למולדת, multi-generational stories of immigration were told via delicate pâte de verre forms that recall curling flower petals or silky folds of fabric.
Grinshpan says: “I explore the fragility of nature and human existence by using organic materials to create forms that burn out in the kiln. Their remnants speak of the spirit and beauty of what once existed.”
Born and raised in Tel Aviv, Israel, Grinshpan earned a B.A. and M.A. in Business and Psychology from Tel Aviv University. A variety of art mediums were a source of interest and exploration since childhood. Travels around the world with her family were also important in her development as an artist. In 2004, the artist moved to and currently resides in Walnut Creek, California, where she fell in love with glass and began to pursue it professionally.
“The ever-changing life of the land, in particular that of Israel, where I was born, and that of my present home in Northern California, inspires me. As an immigrant, I search for connection between the land and my internal landscape of memory. These landscapes, simultaneously intimate and vast, come together in my work,” she explains.
Grinshpan’s education and experience in glass includes a professional residency at Pilchuck Glass School in Stanwood, Washington; serving as teaching assistant for both Saman Kalantari and Alicia Lomne, who were instructing at Corning Museum of Glass (CMOG) Studio in Corning, New York; summer sessions at CMOG’s Studio and the Pittsburgh Glass Center, Pennsylvania; and a professional residency and master class at North Lands Creative Glass, Scotland, UK.
Grinshpan was selected as a finalist at The International Exhibition of Glass Kanazawa Japan in 2016; first prize winner of The Glass Prize 2017 international competition, UK; and published in CMOG’s survey of cutting-edge glass, New Glass Review 39. She achieves the paper-like qualities in her glass beginning with a model of the final artwork made out of clay, wax or other materials. A mold is made from the model using plaster and silica. After mixing finely crushed glass with a binding material, this paste is applied to the inner surface of a negative mold to form a coating. When the coated mold is fired, the glass fuses into an object whose walls depend on the thickness of the pâte de verre layers. After firing, the artist removes the mold material and cleans the piece. The amount of cold work on the fired piece varies, depending on artistic and aesthetic considerations.
Over the past few years Grinshpan’s work has been exhibited in various national and international galleries and museums. Upcoming exhibitions include: Grand Rapids Art Museum, Michigan, A New State of Matter – Contemporary Glass, January 25 through April 26, 2020; Abrams Claghorn Gallery, Albany, California, Particles, Grinshpan’s first exhibition as curator, February 1 through 28, 2020; Eretz Israel Museum, Tel Aviv, The Biennial for Art and Design, March 17 through November 30, 2020; and Pittsburgh Glass Center, The United, October 2, 2020 – January 24, 2021.