Using optical crystal, Karsten Oaks cold works sculpture that bends light and color via its unique forms. Often a discernible object appears from a momentary perspective creating a vision that allows the viewer to connect on a more personal level with the piece. This mystery inspires a deeply personal relationship between viewer and object and sets Oaks’ work apart from that of his coldworking contemporaries.
He says: “When working on the design within the piece I’m using elements of dynamic symmetry such as spirals and ratios. Using different shapes in the sculpture while staying consistent with the proportions I can create a sense of harmony within what would otherwise be a disorganized form. Even after all of the major reductive cuts have been made, I leave some of the design to be laid out when the rest of the piece is almost complete. I feel that this mild sense of chaos through the work’s creation gives each piece its personality and character when it is finished.”
Born and raised in the suburbs of Minneapolis, Oaks took an interest in the arts at an early age. He started playing music when he was 10 years old and went on to play a variety of instruments. As the son of a trained chef, Oaks grew up learning an appreciation of working with his hands in a creative way and enjoys cooking to this day. When he was 16, a friend introduced Oaks to glassblowing as a medium, and he traveled to Tennessee to take his first classes. This sparked the beginning of Oaks’ love of glass as a means to express his artistic vision.
Now one of the most respected and trusted cold workers in the glass sculpture world, Oaks received his BFA at The Appalachian Center for Craft at Tennessee Technical University under the mentorship of Curtiss Brock. There Oaks realized that the necessity of working quickly with glassblowing or hot sculpting did not give him the creative time needed to fully think through his sculptures. After graduating, the artist relocated to Seattle, surrounding himself with leading artists in the field of glass. His first cold working client was Martin Blank, who convinced Oaks that he should open a cold working studio to offer his services to other artists while continuing to formalize what would eventually be his own body of work.
Oaks was cold working for a list of respected artists when he met Lino Tagliapietra and was selected as the only artist to cold work and finish the maestro’s sculptures made in the US. This steady supply of work allowed Oaks to finally open his own studio, and as time permitted, develop his own artistic vision. In September 2014, Bender Gallery, Asheville, North Carolina, began to represent his work at the gallery as well as SOFA Expo Chicago, Art Palm Beach and Wheaton GlassWeekend with great response.