“To have even a brief conversation with artist Michael E. Taylor is to dive headfirst into a deep pool of scientific and intellectual inquiry. Taylor has always been an extremely analytical artist, responding with equal fervor to his intellectual encounters with scientific ideas, art history, philosophy, or current events. Whether inspired by formal quality of geometry, the Higgs boson particle, or the moral implications of artificial intelligence, Taylor’s work is ultimately about investigation.” – Museum of Glass, Tacoma, solo show, Traversing Parallels, 2017/2018.
Widely-renowned for his cut and laminated glass works, geometric constructions, and fractal abstractions inspired by everything from subatomic particles to music, Michael E. Taylor first used glass while attending a workshop at Penland School of Crafts in North Carolina. He was struck by the material’s heat and spontaneity, a dynamic opposite from the deliberate and extended processes for firing and shaping ceramics. Dedicated to art and education for over 49 years, the artist was born in Lewisberg, Tennessee, in 1944, where he initially studied ceramics while working towards a Bachelor of Science in Art Education from Tennessee State University. Studying ceramics honed his intuitive sense of form, color, and design; skills which would later be important to his glass career.
One of the first generation of artists to learn from the founders of the Studio Glass movement, Taylor experienced the early days of glass through interactions with Harvey Littleton, Fritz Dreisbach, and Marvin Lipofsky. As a young student, a Fulbright Hayes Grant to Scandinavia introduced him to the factories of Kosta-Boda Glasbruke and Johansfors Glasbruke, as well as artists of the region, including Anna Warff.
Taylor’s artistic career has been intertwined with decades as a university professor, including a more than 20-year tenure as a professor in the School for American Crafts at Rochester Institute of Technology, invited Professor at the Universidade Nova de Lisboa, Faculdade de Ciencias e Tecnologia, Campus da Caprica, Portugal, 2005 – 2013, and instructor at schools in the US such as Pilchuck, Penland, and the Corning Museum of Glass. His career in academia made it possible to experiment and explore new ideas through his sculpture instead of feeling pressure to repeat popular works for monetary sales. The academic setting also allowed Taylor to continue to explore scientific, philosophical, and artistic ideas.
While at the College of Idaho and teaching the history of modern art, Taylor’s directive led to political and visual expressions of the Russian revolution and artists of constructivism. The hard lines and acute angles of constructivism of the 1920s continued to scientific theory and theoretical physics. Using glass with scientific exactness and austerity resulted in further architectural form and shapes of accuracy. Readings of future science and cultural futurism led to issues of DNA and binary systems as they related to laminations in his work.
Taylor states: “Art reflects thought and ideals of the period in which it is made. It can relate to predictions for the future. My work speaks of the importance of science and technology and its eventual dominance through Artificial Intelligence.”
Taylor’s honors and awards are many and include the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation Grant, 2009, 2011; Luso – American Foundation Grant, Portugal, 2002 -2007; Outstanding Visual Artist Award, Arts and Cultural Council of Greater Rochester, New York, 2001; College of Imaging Arts and Sciences, Research and Development Grant, RIT, 2000; Grand Prize, The International Exhibition of Glass, Kanazawa, Japan, 1988; National Endowment for the Arts, Visual Artists Forums Grant, 1985-86 and Visual Artist Fellowship, National Endowment for the Arts, 1984-85. Other educational awards and opportunities include a Lewis Comfort Tiffany Grant, Penland School Scholarship, and The American – Scandinavian Foundation Grant.
His work can be found in the permanent collections of the Chrysler Museum of Art, Norfolk, Virginia; the National Collection of American Art, Renwick Gallery, Smithsonian Institute, Washington, D.C.; The Museum of Glass, Tacoma, Washington; Asheville Museum of Art, North Carolina; Racine Museum of Art, Racine, Wisconsin; Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto, Ontario, Canada; Glas Museum Ebeltoft, Ebeltoft, Denmark; Kanazawa City Museum, Kanazawa, Japan; and Tokyo Glass Art Institute, Kawasaki-Shi, Japan, to name only a few.
Inviting viewers to utilize scientific-like observations to analyze the implications of a rapidly changing world, Taylor’s sculpture is both triumphant and cautionary, simultaneously celebrating technological breakthroughs and worrying about their implications. By using glass to make these theoretical connections, the artist inspires contemplation of social and scientific issues and continues to take the material of glass into new expressive terrain.
States Taylor: “The race is on in all technological advanced countries for the discovery of human consciousness for AI. I predict it will be the last frontier of human intellect. I have constructed a laminated slab of color blocks which represent the codes for the human consciousness. I see it as a kind of Rosetta Stone of translation from one language to another – binary to English. The RS interpretation of Egyptian hieroglyphics to Greek language allowed us to make the intellectual and cultural jump.
“I see Codes as containing the information for making the final leap from human consciousness to that of machines. This will be a discovery of epic proportions. This would be the beginning of a new world of solutions to puzzles such as eternal life, interplanetary travel, and the discovery of philosophic truth for each individual human.”
During a 2011 lecture by John Moran, Krista Israel had an epiphany. The artist realized that through her art it was possible to offer an opinion on social issues. Thoughts and feelings that are difficult to put into words become one’s voice through the creation of art. To this end, she employs the techniques of casting, flameworking, and pâte de verre, using the natural characteristics of the different glass techniques to express her thoughts, sometimes in combination with other materials such as cloth, computer parts, plastic toys, even a chair.
Israel states: “Glass art doesn’t necessarily have to be shiny and pretty. This material, which is known for those properties, can also be used in a completely different way. For me that was an aha moment, which certainly influenced the series of critical works on social media and rapid technical developments that I made in the following years. In life we go through stages and changes; that also happens in the works you make.” During the pandemic lockdown, Israel’s artistic goals began to shift, and her desire to make work with ironic humor came into focus.
Starting out in her education as pastry chef and later silversmith, neither of those materials made Israel’s heart sing like melting glass rods in a flame. After the initial introduction to flameworking, she studied different techniques at a variety of workshops over a period of five years, while working for the largest bead store in the Netherlands, designing jewelery and giving workshops. In 2005, the artist became aware of the glass art department of the Institute for Art and Crafts (IKA) in Belgium. For almost two years she considered attending, until a visit to the institute convinced her to make the leap.
Graduating with honors from the IKA, Israel received her BFA in glass art in 2013 and MFA in 2016. In addition to the 2022 Saxe Emerging Artist Award from the Glass Art Society, the artist was selected for the Coburger Glas Preis 2022 and 2014, Kunstsammlungen der Veste Coburg, Germany; nominated for the Dutch glass prize – the Bernadine de Neeve Prize 2021, Association Friends of Modern Glas; received Stipendium 2018, Association Friends of Modern Glass, The Netherlands; received the Originality & Ingenuity exhibition and residency, Liling Ceramic Valley Museum, China, 2017; and received the 10-10-10 Stipendium, academic grant for glass artists, Glass Gallery Aventurine, 2014. Israel designed and produced the 2015 collectors object of the Dutch Association Friends of Modern Glass.
The combination of her unique perspective on the modern world and flameworking techniques that produce a mind-blowing “glass fur,” has put Israel on the map. She has participated in national and international exhibitions in Belgium, Germany, Ireland, China, Poland, the United States and the Netherlands, including: New Glass Now On Tour, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Renwick Gallery, USA; New Glass Now, Corning Museum of Glass, USA, 2019; Glass 4 Ever, Gorcums Museum, Netherlands, 2018; Glass Art Society, GAS Members Juried Exhibition, USA, 2017; European Glass Festival, main exhibition Play with Glass: Dr. Jekyll & Mrs. Hyde, Poland, 2016; Tianyuan International Glass Art Festival, Collision & Fission Contemporary Glass Art Invitational Exhibition, China, 2016; Exhibition Coburger Glas Preis, Europaïsch Museum für Modern Glass, Germany, 2014. Her work is represented in public collections, including: Corning Museum of Glass, USA; Liling Ceramic Valley Museum, China; Ernsting Stiftung Glass Museum Alter Hof Herding, Germany; and Kunstsammlungen der Veste Coburg – Europaisch Museum für Modern Glas, Germany. Her work is represented in the US by Habatat Galleries Detroit, coming soon at Habatat Galleries Florida and Oooit Art in the Netherlands.
Israel is co-founder of the non-profit organization UNexpected Glass. During the International Year of Glass, UNexpected Glass will launch its first exhibition in October 2022, which will be a crossover between glass art, multi-media art with glass and glass innovation from the architectural world and construction industry. Artist and innovation talks and glass demonstrations will also be offered. Check in at www.unexpectedglass.nl which is currently under construction.
Wrote Helene Besancon, curator National Glass Museum: “Krista Israel is a multi-media artist with a main focus on glass. Looking at her work it is like entering a story. The artworks are pleasing to the eye, but there is a layer of bittersweetness in all of them. Her works are in a realistic style, but it is not about the obvious reality. She is an artist who uses a broad variety of techniques, using the natural characteristics of glass to express her thoughts and reflections of the world and people, thus addressing the needs of our well-being. The combination of different techniques and her thoughts make her work complex and intriguing.”