Through their Ultra-Baroque polycultural work, Einar and Jamex De La Torre tackle topics of identity and contemporary consumerism. Influences range from religious iconography to German expressionism while also paying homage to Mexican vernacular arts and pre-Columbian art. They don’t consider themselves glass artists per se, but treat glass as one component in their three-dimensional collages, one that interacts with a multitude of chosen – not found – objects. Einar recalls their mother’s fondness for puns as a likely source for the brothers’ own interest in multiple layers of understanding.
Collaborating since the 1990s, the De La Torres were born in Guadalajara, México, in 1963 and 1960. They moved to the United States in 1972, transitioning from a traditional catholic school to a small California beach Town. Both attended California State University at Long Beach. Jamex earned a BFA in Sculpture in 1983, while Einar decided against the utility of an art degree. Currently the brothers live and work on both sides of the border, The Guadalupe Valley in Baja California, México, and San Diego, California. The complexities of the immigrant experience and contradicting bicultural identities, as well as their current life and practice on both sides of border, inform their narrative and aesthetics.
Gussie Fauntleroy wrote in the July 2009 issue of American Craft: “Similarly, in their art the brothers intentionally disregard conventional borders between dichotomous pairs such as high and low art and sacred and profane, and between deluxe objects and the detritus of everyday life. Virtually every assemblage and installation incorporates blown glass or cast-resin elements in sumptuous colors that shimmer, juxtaposed with an array of … objects, including plastic toys, snack food wrappers and old tires.”
The De La Torres have been honored with The USA Artists Fellowship award, The Louis Comfort Tiffany Award, The Joan Mitchell Foundation Award, and The San Diego Art Prize. They have had 18 solo museum exhibitions, completed eight major public art projects and participated in four biennales. Their work can be found in the permanent collections of Corning Museum of Glass, Corning, New York; Museum of American Glass, Millville, New Jersey; The Kanazu Museum, Kanazu, Japan; Frauenau Glass Museum, Frauenau, Bavaria, Germany; GlazenHuis Museum, Lommel, Belgium; and the Museum of Glass, Tacoma, Washington, to name a few. Private collectors include Alice Walton, Cheech Marin, Elton John, Irwin Jacobs, Terry McMillan, Sandra Cisneros and Quincy Troupe.
Guest instructors at Penland, UrbanGlass, the Pittsburgh Glass Center and Pilchuck, the De La Torre brothers have shared their multifaceted knowledge of glass technique including blowing, bit work and flameworking with students worldwide. In the last 15 years they have been creating photomural installations using Lenticular printing as a major part of their repertoire.
“If ever there were a case where materials and their masterful use provide a perfect match—and metaphor—for an artist’s concepts and themes, it’s in the art of Jamex and Einar de la Torre,” wrote Fontleroy. “How better to convey the rich complexity and alchemic intermingling of border cultures than through mixed media creations as multilayered, thought-provoking and engaging as the cultures themselves?”
Using optical crystal, Karsten Oaks cold works sculpture that bends light and color via its unique forms. Often a discernible object appears from a momentary perspective creating a vision that allows the viewer to connect on a more personal level with the piece. This mystery inspires a deeply personal relationship between viewer and object and sets Oaks’ work apart from that of his coldworking contemporaries.
He says: “When working on the design within the piece I’m using elements of dynamic symmetry such as spirals and ratios. Using different shapes in the sculpture while staying consistent with the proportions I can create a sense of harmony within what would otherwise be a disorganized form. Even after all of the major reductive cuts have been made, I leave some of the design to be laid out when the rest of the piece is almost complete. I feel that this mild sense of chaos through the work’s creation gives each piece its personality and character when it is finished.”
Born and raised in the suburbs of Minneapolis, Oaks took an interest in the arts at an early age. He started playing music when he was 10 years old and went on to play a variety of instruments. As the son of a trained chef, Oaks grew up learning an appreciation of working with his hands in a creative way and enjoys cooking to this day. When he was 16, a friend introduced Oaks to glassblowing as a medium, and he traveled to Tennessee to take his first classes. This sparked the beginning of Oaks’ love of glass as a means to express his artistic vision.
Now one of the most respected and trusted cold workers in the glass sculpture world, Oaks received his BFA at The Appalachian Center for Craft at Tennessee Technical University under the mentorship of Curtiss Brock. There Oaks realized that the necessity of working quickly with glassblowing or hot sculpting did not give him the creative time needed to fully think through his sculptures. After graduating, the artist relocated to Seattle, surrounding himself with leading artists in the field of glass. His first cold working client was Martin Blank, who convinced Oaks that he should open a cold working studio to offer his services to other artists while continuing to formalize what would eventually be his own body of work.
Oaks was cold working for a list of respected artists when he met Lino Tagliapietra and was selected as the only artist to cold work and finish the maestro’s sculptures made in the US. This steady supply of work allowed Oaks to finally open his own studio, and as time permitted, develop his own artistic vision. In September 2014, Bender Gallery, Asheville, North Carolina, began to represent his work at the gallery as well as SOFA Expo Chicago, Art Palm Beach and Wheaton GlassWeekend with great response.