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.