British born artist, Joanna Manousis creates sculptural objects and installations in glass and mixed media, manipulating materials through a multi-disciplinary process that includes bronze casting, enamels, and even taxidermy. With a hands-on studio practice spanning 17 years, she strives to transform cast glass surfaces into reflective, three-dimensional mirrors, shifting the viewers’ perspective and bringing new experiential possibilities.
Wrote Eve Kahn in a 2018 Todd Merrill exhibition catalog: “Joanna Manousis mines her life experiences while exploring broader themes—materialism, memory, domesticity, vanity, iridescence—in acclaimed sculptures that mingle glass with wheat husks and taxidermied birds. Viewers may find themselves reflecting on the transience of existence while seeing themselves literally and metaphorically mirrored in her works.”
An only child raised by her mother, growing up Manousis loved drawing and painting. During early meditations with mirrors, she had the initial experience of being somehow detached from her body – a phenomenon whereby her spirit seemed disconnected from her visual appearance. In college, Manousis set out to become a painter, but the canvas plane gave her artist’s block. She enrolled at Wolverhampton University for a bachelor of fine art-glass degree, and during a year abroad studied neon and glass casting and blowing at Alfred University in western New York. In 2008, she earned her MFA at Alfred, and by then had met her future husband, the Maine-born glass artist Zac Weinberg.
Now a working mom of two, Manousis travels the world to teach, exhibit, and make artworks, while winning awards and grants. Her work has been recognized with nominations for the Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation Award and a Bombay Sapphire Award Nomination for ‘Excellence in Glass’ as well as the Margaret M. Mead Award and the Hans Godo Frabel Award. She has received support from internationally recognized residency programs including the Glass Pavilion at the Toledo Museum of Art, Ohio; the Museum of Arts and Design, New York; the Corning Museum of Glass, New York; and Cité Internationale des Arts, Paris, France. Her work has been exhibited at Design Miami and Art Basel, Basel, Switzerland; FOG Art + Design, San Francisco; the Glasmuseet Ebeltoft, Ebeltoft, Denmark; and the British Glass Biennale, Stourbridge, England. The artist has worked, studied and taught in Japan, the United Kingdom, the United States and Australia.
Manousis states: “My work is born out of a sustained exploration of human nature and the conflicts that exist between our inner reality and the world we occupy. I often emphasize decadence and grandiosity to illuminate the superfluous nature of accumulated luxury when faced with our own impermanence. I am also interested in engaging the viewer’s gaze, drawing the participant into a state of reflection, literally and philosophically, about the essence of human existence and ideas related to growth, emotionality, aspiration and mortality.”
She continues: “Glass is my chosen medium, and I am drawn to its contrasting qualities–transparent yet solid, it simultaneously reveals yet barricades. In recent works I use cast glass as a lens to magnify residual formations of objects within. On occasion these negative spaces are mirrored, enlivening static surfaces in my pursuit to reflect the viewer and the environment that the work inhabits. Incorporating the audience’s gaze, whether it is distorted or clear, centralizes the viewer within the work itself, facilitating a stronger connection between observer and object.”
ToYG podcast caught up with Manousis just prior to two US workshops: Penland School of Craft, Bakersville, North Carolina, July 2 – 14 and The Corning Museum of Glass, July 31 – August 6. In addition to her core-cast pieces with internal spaces, she continues her PhD testing, along with a new venture in customizable wall installations made with graphite molding techniques that she and husband Weinberg create together in their company Manberg Projects. Manousis’ PhD research focuses on three-dimensional mirrors within cast glass resulting in work that deals with reflection, both physically and metaphorically. The artist has also recently started making jewelry – small scale pieces that are more accessible and used to adorn. Check out this new work on Instagram @jomanousis. Her sculptural practice can be found @joanna.manousis.