Jon Kuhn: A Matrix for Eternity
Inspired by metaphysical studies and a couple of out of body experiences, Jon Kuhn developed an aesthetic language for expressing the architecture and light of the non-physical world. Though his life as an artist began in ceramics, interest in spiritual studies influenced the artist’s move to glass. Because similar to mediation where we go inside ourselves, glass can hold information and light within.
Regarded as one of the leading glass artists in the world, Kuhn has work in over 45 international museums including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Carnegie Museum, the White House Permanent Collection, National Museum of American Art and hundreds of private residences and public spaces. In 2006, the artist was presented with an Honorary Doctorate for Life Achievements from his alma matter Washburn University in Topeka, Kansas.
Born and raised in Chicago, Illinois, and the son of a political science professor, Kuhn briefly attended Shimer College, then moved on to Washburn where he received his BFA in 1972. Although still uncertain about pursuing a career as an artist, he had learned a great deal about the vocabulary and processes of art and pursued these ideals via ceramics at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, receiving his MFA in 1978.
Interested in metaphysical studies from a young age, Kuhn read his first book on Zen Buddhism at age 12. In college he studied the I Ching or "Book of Changes" - an ancient Chinese divination manual and a book of wisdom which interprets hexagrams formed by tossed coins to form answers to questions about the future. The I Ching is a cornerstone of Chinese philosophy, describing the basic elements of the way to enlightenment (happiness, inner healing, holiness, in God living). He also read many works written by Edgar Cayce, who founded The Association for Research and Enlightenment in 1931 to research and explore subjects such as holistic health, ancient mysteries, personal spirituality, dreams and dream interpretation, intuition, philosophy and reincarnation.
Early explorations in glass revealed themselves in blown, irregularly shaped globes with crusty exteriors. Kuhn cleaved off slices of the raw-looking exterior to reveal the sparkling glass within,
providing us with a window onto our inner selves. But it was his personal involvement in a meditation group on healing that led him to express the qualities of light and architecture only experienced in the non-physical world. Through his sculpture so readily recognized today, the artist began to convey an interior life or central drama with a powerful pull on our imaginations.
After moving to Winston-Salem, North Carolina, in 1985 Kuhn began focusing on his signature processes - cutting, grinding, polishing and laminating - which put him on the map and has delivered consistent acclaim ever since. At last, expressions of the light and architecture of the spiritual realm could be reflected in his cubes, columns and monumental works meticulously crafted in the purest glass fabricated on earth. If light is life, Kuhn’s sculpture is the stage on which the possibilities of this world and others can be pondered.
Of cold glass artists, Kuhn’s work stands out for its complexity, its geometric forms and above all, for its presence, which conveys a spiritual quality. Kuhn says, “The goal of spirituality is perfection. Striving for perfection has never been more evident than in what I do. Perhaps my glass sculpture could become an architectural model of a vision for a better world.”