With her unique sculptural works, Ann Wolff holds a distinguished place as one of the world’s leading artists working with glass. She applies her strongly personal approach to bronze, aluminum and concrete sculpture, as well as to drawing, pastel work and photography. From April through October 2022, Prince Eugen’s Waldemarsudde, one of Sweden’s most popular art museums, presented a solo exhibition of Wolff’s work in several techniques and media from the year 2000 until the present day. VOGUE Scandinavia nominated the show as one of the 10 best fall exhibitions in Scandinavia. It was also the largest showing of her work presented in Sweden.
Wolff states: “I have seen my works in painting, stone, bronze, concrete, and glass as equal in status. Sometimes I feel that my strongest works might be in paper, charcoal and pastels.”
She continues: “I feel as a human being out of time. The notion of self and hence identity, grips me, disturbs me and motivates me. Everything comes from that. My interest in the self includes the others. It is clear that in the way that one carries out one’s work, something like a self expresses itself. And this self is guided by constantly developing insights. The insights can be very unclear but can still be the inspiration behind a work. I am testing out old questions of identity; be it inside-outside, symmetry, layers and core, number two and the double, the goat and the monkey. Moments of recognition are what my work needs, they propel me forward. Collected moments of clarity become knowledge.”
Born in Germany in 1937, Wolff studied at the Hochschule für Gestaltung (University of Design and Art) in Ulm, Germany, then worked as a designer in Sweden. For many years, she designed for the Kosta Boda glassworks, during which time she also pursued an independent career as a studio artist. Currently living and working on the Baltic island of Gotland, Sweden, she is the recipient of several internationally prestigious distinctions including the Lifetime Achievement Award from Glass Art Society and the PRO EUROPA Foundation’s European Culture Prize. She has been honored with numerous international awards, among them the renowned Coburger Glaspreis (1977), the Bayerischen Staatspreis (1988), the Jurypreis of the Toledo Museum of Art (2005), and the Award of Excellence of the Smithsonian Renwick Collection, Washington, DC (2008). The Swedish Royal family has acquired several of her works.
As one of the founders of the international Studio Glass movement, Wolff was at the center of attention as early as end of the 1960s. Her initiation into the American Studio Glass movement came at the invitation of Marvin Liposfsky and Dale Chihuly. Early days at Pilchuck sharing ideas and techniques revealed to her a new reality – one in which she was respected as an artist not a designer.
Wolff States: “The Studio Glass movement from the United States burst in on my work – my isolation – in the mid 1960s. I was astonished and thrilled by the freedom with which glass was handled there. An immense curiosity about the unused potential and the broad possibilities of the new material for art: glass. It has to fit into the framework of art in general, though. For me, art is the deciding factor. The path I took shows that I intensely wanted to express my life in pictures, clarify things for myself. Of course, I could have started in a quite different medium – painting, sculpture, film – but it became glass.”
In her 50-year career, Wolff repeatedly created works that made people think. With glass, she allowed the world to glance at her esthetic sentimentality, and she also created homogenous objects. Ever recurring themes predominant in her work are womanhood and habitation expressed through objects that are mostly monochrome, often in warm earthy tones. Dance-theater was a strong inspiration, and she was allowed to attend rehearsals with Pina Bausch, made views from what she saw there and then formed glass objects.
Wolff brings out the special characteristics of glass: contours, surfaces, the relation between inside and outside. She makes inner landscapes visible. What lies behind the mask? The artist has asked herself this question again and again over the years. The psychology behind the facade is a regular theme of her works. Investigating further the subject of Wolff’s blown and engraved bowls and cast sculptures, one finds that the relationships between women as friends, and as mothers and daughters, and the role of women in society deeply concern her. She writes: “It is natural to take oneself as one’s starting point. The situation of women partly determines who I am and leads me to pose particular questions.”