Drawing from the wild and erotic character of the natural environment, Bri Chesler’s work reflects on cultural obsessions of beauty and their relationships to internal anatomies. By fusing similar elements found in biology and botany she creates forms that flirt with the audience, exploring ideas of intimacy and desire. Known for its nontraditional approach, her work combines a variety of glass techniques with other media.
Says Chesler: “Over the last few years glass has become the focus of my material exploration. The process revolves around using your body, the momentum of its movements, and your breath to shape a form. You have to allow yourself to be vulnerable. A dance between artist and medium, each movement carefully caressing, convincing the glass to become something new. The reality and illusion of its fragility, its weightless transparent quality, feed into the idea of being exposed, a material, a skin, that has the ability to be both vacant and full of depth.”
She continues: “I like to maintain a glass focus while using a multidisciplinary approach, emphasizing qualities found in both materials that translate a similar idea or aesthetic. Manipulating surfaces and materials in a way that plays with the audiences’ perception allows me to develop a surreal dialog by diminishing the limitations of material identity. The cohesion of different glass techniques and other media has become something innate to my making; it’s what defines me as a glass artist. It not only allows me to explore the material in untraditional ways, but it also demonstrates and highlights the multidimensional nature of glass itself.”
Though she now lives in Seattle, Chesler credits her Palm Beach upbringing as a major influence. While Florida’s landscapes inspired the foundation for her conceptual ideas, the cultural environment informed the themes of superficial beauty, intimacy, and empathy. A product of BAK MSOA and Dreyfoos High School of the Arts, the former alum always knew her calling was a visual one. She discovered her passion for glass while studying metal and foundry processes at the Kansas City Art Institute during her undergraduate studies. The sensual and organic aesthetic of glass resonated with Chesler in a way that metal did not.
Chesler has received accolades such as the 2019 Pilchuck Emerging Artist-in-Residence award, the 2020 Hauberg Fellowship, the 2021 Glass Art Society’s Saxe Emerging Artist Award, and a Chihuly Gardens and Glass Anniversary Scholarship. In 2022, she taught as an instructor at Pilchuck Glass School and was featured in a solo exhibition, titled Untamed: The Anatomy of Desire, at the Center on Contemporary Arts in Seattle. Her works have also been exhibited at the Bellevue Arts Museum in Washington State and Habatat Gallery in Michigan.
DELECTABLE, a collaborative installation, is on view now through April 15 at Method Gallery. Chesler and MinHi England (Blown Away 3 finalist) bonded after learning about shared traumatic life experiences, only to realize the conceptual parallels in their artistic practice. In 2017, they founded a collaborative brand called Liquid Lush Studio and have since been collaborating artistically. Throughout that time, they have continued a partnership not only creatively but in a familial friendship. The two describe themselves as “widow wives” after caring for and witnessing cancer take the life of Jesse England. After surviving this new shared traumatic life experience, their connection grew stronger and motivated the two to continue a collaborative partnership.
Museum of Glass (MOG), Tacoma, presents a concert in the Hot Shop on April 20, featuring local music group Mirrorgloss alongside live glassblowing demonstrations led by Chesler and England. The artists will act as lead gaffers for the evening, guiding Museum of Glass Hot Shop Starter Sarah Gilbert and students from the Hilltop Artists program in creating works inspired by the music. The event is inspired by the themes of feminism and the work of powerful women-identifying and gender-expansive artists in MOG’s current exhibition She Bends: Redefining Neon Legacy.
Chesler and England will also demonstrate at the Glass Art Society Conference in Detroit, Michigan, in June 2023 as well as co-teach at OxBow School of Art, Saugatuck, Michigan, in July 2023.