Public art projects present many technical and aesthetic challenges including, first and foremost, how the artist conveys her concept to a broad swath of the general public. When considering the Multnomah County Central Courthouse in Portland, Oregon, Lynn Basa took on the challenge of translating the principles of hope for users of the new building.
She says: “The American justice system is ultimately based on hope – hope that if you do something wrong and get caught, that you’ll get a fair trial; hope that if you go to trial you won’t get convicted; hope that if you get convicted, you’ll get a light sentence. Judges hope that they will be fair and impartial. Underpinning all of this is the hope for rehabilitation, to re-enter society, to lead a productive life.”
The Regional Arts & Culture Council (RACC) selected Basa to create a 25’ x 71’ glass artwork for the lobby of the new 17-story Multnomah County Central Courthouse. Designed by SRG Partnership / CGL Ricci Greene, the new courthouse is located at Southwest First Avenue and Madison Street. The artist chose Bullseye Studio to fabricate her 1,775-square-foot work – a series of 120 5′ tall x 3′ wide panels composed entirely of kilnformed glass. The panels required more than 200 firings and three years to complete.
Basa’s design for the two-story artwork—viewable from the lobby, the second and third stories of the building, and from the building’s exterior—was inspired by conversations with the project’s Artist Selection Panel, courthouse judges and employees, as well as formerly incarcerated community members. The focus of the artwork is a landscape that reflects the rippling passage of behavior, through redemption and rehabilitation, that is sought in the community justice process.
Basa says: “The composition reads from left to right. It starts out hot and in turmoil then becomes cooler and calmer. The crime and the criminal run hot. The job of the justice system is to treat that heat with cool rationality, to calm the waters. On another level, the artwork is a landscape. Living in the Pacific Northwest means living with the constant awareness that you’re on top of a volcanic chain, contrasted by being surrounded by water. The Wilmette River runs next to the courthouse and, of course, Portland’s famously rainy climate.”
Throughout the country, Basa has completed numerous public art commissions in mosaic, glass, steel, terrazzo, and light. In her studio, she paints with an ancient medium called encaustic that is a mix of beeswax and oil pigment. She is the founder of the Milwaukee Avenue Alliance, a community organization dedicated to the equitable cultural and economic reawakening of three blocks of the vintage, working-class main street where her storefront studio is located. With an undergraduate degree in ceramics from Indiana University, the artist earned her MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) and an MPA in public art policy from the University of Washington. Basa’s book called The Artist’s Guide to Public Art: How to Find and Win Commissions, is based on a class she developed and taught at SAIC.
In order to create effects similar to those of encaustic painting, her primary medium, Basa elected to use glass for the Multnomah County Courthouse project. Bullseye Studio developed a process for translating between the mediums, then executed the work in colored crushed glass on canvases of opalescent white glass. She chose to work with Bullseye Studio to translate her imagery from encaustic to glass based on the success of her prior work with Bullseye’s team creating mosaic columns for TriMet’s Orange Line stations.
Funded by Multnomah County Percent for Art and managed by the Regional Arts & Culture Council (RACC), Bullseye Studio worked closely with SRG, RACC, Multnomah County, Hoffman Construction, and the engineering firm KPFF to realize this massive project. Installation of the artwork was performed by Artech.
In a time of darkness, Julie Conway relies upon her studio practice for survival, but also as a means of sharing sparkle, beauty and light with the rest of the world. A glass artist and lighting designer, she founded Illuminata Art Glass Design LLC to offer bespoke, luxurious custom lighting designed to amplify molten glass and its abilities to refract and reflect light. Named in homage to the Italian Renaissance thinkers and artists who expanded public consciousness, Illuminata currently offers a new version of enlightenment for the masses.
Says Conway: “We are dealing with grief, emotions, change, and finding life routines. There have been some solitary days in the studio. I put my time into some deep designing and launching new content on my new readymade website. My team and I have returned to blowing glass in limited capacity with a few extra juggling steps, but I am so happy to be back producing glass and installing new commissions. For me, it has been so important to have my studio practice. Getting lost in creative projects has now become a mode of survival. I feel that we must continue to find things that inspire us. The only way through is through. Feel the light. It is here for us.”
A passionate collaborator, Conway works closely with architects, designers and clients to create extraordinary hand-made, illuminated glassworks. She conceives all site-specific original designs and executes their fabrication in the hotshop with her team. Crafting the suspension systems, creating the blueprints for armatures, and integrating the technical electrical components are all part of her process. By communicating and coordinating with teams of electricians, installers, architects, designers and clients, her artistic vision is achieved. Merging concepts of art installation with functional design, spaces are transformed by light.
She says: “Light is fascination, attraction, a beacon, it is life. Light travels for eons before our existence. We see it after the millennia have past and the fleeting moment is gone.”
Beginning in 1997 in Santa Fe, New Mexico, Conway took her first steps on the pathway to glass working as an apprentice for three and a half years alongside a glass production artist. From 2003 to 2011, she served as a class organizer, teaching assistant and Italian translator for various glassmaking classes on the island of Murano. Subsequently, she spent years teaching glassblowing and flameworking herself at Public Glass, San Francisco, and Pratt Fine Arts, Seattle. In addition to lighting, Conway creates glass jewelry, small sculpture and Christmas ornaments from her workspace within Seattle’s Equinox Studio, a nexus of collaboration where artists often contribute to each other’s projects and have renter equity in a collection of industrial buildings.
Recent awards include Conway’s selection as the 2017/ 2018 Visiting Artist for Motif Seattle, a hotel that blends its identity to the vision of an area artist on a rotating basis. In 2018, the artist participated in LuxLumen, an art glass lighting exhibition for Berengo Studio and Gallery, shown during the Venice Biennale in Murano. Her work FracTur(ed), exhibited at Glasstastic, the Bellevue Arts Museum Glass Biennial exhibition, won the global lighting award from Light in Theory. In 2019, she designed, created and installed chandeliers at SeaTac Airport and Din Tai Fung in Seattle.
In 2007, Conway founded BioGlass, a non-profit organization dedicated to increasing the efficiency of glass studios and glass making practices, and disseminating the latest information on the best practices to lower energy usage in glass studios. On a recent trip to Mexico, the artist began a collaboration project for her new LUMI Collection, making products from recycled glass and using a biofuels furnace with zero carbon footprint.
Conway’s work evolved outside of the gallery scene due to the functionality of glass lighting. Instead, her illuminated installations adorn luxury hotels, bars, restaurants, award-winning homes and museum exhibitions. The Illuminata collection is an intentional juxtaposition of elegant blown glass forms and industrial elements surrounding patterns of light and shadow unique to Conway’s artistic expression, merging concepts of art installation with functional design. The result is the transformation of space via light.
The 1950s and ‘60s marked the heyday of kinetic sculpture with Alexander Calder’s mobiles and Jean Tinguely’s junk machine that destroyed itself in the sculpture garden of the Museum of Modern Art. But to glass lovers, Bandhu Dunham put himself on the same map with his 2016 Rube Goldberg-esque Escape Room created for Arizona State University as a reflection of how sports could evolve 24 years into the future.
Dunham says: “Nature inspires me, the interplays between art and science always interest me, and glass merges these fields like no other material. After many years, fanciful steam engines and other kinetic sculptures represent a full turn of the circle, back to the colorful, magical mysteries that captivated my childhood self. He’s still in there, and he wants you to come play, too. I think that people like watching kinetic gizmos with gears and pulleys and crankshafts because, in a paradoxical way, these machines re-connect us with nature.”
Born in Dayton, Ohio, in 1959, Dunham began to teach himself lampwork technique in 1975 while still in high school. As an undergraduate at Princeton, he received informal training from the University’s glassblower before completing his apprenticeship under American and European masters at Urban Glass, the Pilchuck Glass School and the Penland School of Crafts. The artist regularly teaches workshops at craft schools and private studios around the United States and internationally including the Studio of the Corning Museum of Glass, The Penland School of Crafts and the Pilchuck Glass School. A visiting foreign instructor at Osaka University of Arts in Osaka, Japan, Dunham has presented his work at numerous international conferences including The Glass Art Society, Ausglass, The International Festival of Glass, Kobe Lampwork Festa and Glassymposium Lauscha.
An internationally respected glass artist, author and teacher, Bandhu’s work can be found in the permanent collections of numerous museums in the US and abroad, and his Contemporary Lampworking books are the authoritative, standard instructional texts in the field. In addition to fabricating one-of-a-kind glass sculptures and goblets, Dunham supervises his apprentices in creating unusual gift items and decorations of his conception from his studio, Salusa Glassworks, Prescott, Arizona. In 2018, he designed a groundbreaking kinetic sculpture fabricated by Ryan Murray, GANESHA (Guard Against Negativity; Express Sane Healing Attitudes), for The Melting Point Gallery, Sedona, Arizona.
He says: “The effect on the viewer is a playful mix of contemplative fascination with bursts of excitement as the marbles make their way up and down the track. I enjoy seeing how much viewers of all ages and backgrounds are engaged by the simple drama of marbles circulating through a kinetic system. The key elements of art-as-experience are brought to life in this complex yet simple theatre. We are reminded of life’s magic when we allow ourselves to be captivated by the colorful story unfolding before us. In the best case, the world looks a little different after we have spent some time watching one of my machines.”
Dunham has established a Patreon page to support the creation and dissemination of his informative, inspiring and amusing videos about glass art.