Drawing on the rich traditions of glass blowing, fearless experimentation, and a fascination with glass as both a visual and experiential encounter, Katherine Gray creates work that ranges from blown glass sculptures to assembled installations of found glass. A visitor favorite at The Corning Museum of Glass is her Forest Glass, a large-scale installation comprised of found glass arranged to create the illusion of trees. Whether celebrating a prosaic material through installations or her Iridescent Entities, stylized hearths and campfires, or clouds and orbs, Gray forces us to appreciate glass anew.
She says: “I use a material that we don’t generally see. It is often flawlessly clear and colorless, hence invisible in that regard, but it can also be so ubiquitous and banal that it does not register in our psyches either. It is a material that allows us unparalleled connectivity (via smart phones and fibre optics) yet also serves to separate us. To my mind, these two polarities are what set this material apart from so many others, and one of the reasons that I feel compelled to keep working with it as an artistic medium. It is both present and absent, known and unknown, and vacillating between a state of mundane familiarity and otherworldly perfection.”
In Heller Gallery’s 2020 exhibition, Radiant Mirage, Gray turned her considerable glass-making skills to creating objects that served two purposes: to bring beauty into a dire moment in the world, and to express her frustration over the loss of our collective sense of security and well-being. The common thread was her use of iridescence, an optical phenomenon seen in nature and inspired by unearthed ancient glass. Like natural phenomena that are caused by the refraction of light, Gray’s Entities and Tubes emphasized the elusiveness and shiftiness of iridized objects and projected an ephemeral shape and play of color our eye does not fully grasp.
Educated at the Ontario College of Art and the Rhode Island School of Design, Gray serves as the Resident Evaluator on Seasons 1 and 2 of Netflix’s reality TV show Blown Away. Her works are held in the permanent collections of public institutions including the Toledo Museum of Art, Toledo, OH; Corning Museum of Glass, Corning, NY; Museum of American Glass, Wheaton, NJ; the Museum of Glass, Tacoma, WA; New Mexico Museum of Art, Santa Fe, NM; and Toyama City Institute of Glass Art, Toyama, Japan. Reviewed in the New York Observer, Artforum, and the Los Angeles Times, Gray has been nominated for the Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation Award, and has garnered many accolades including the Award of Merit from the Bellevue Art Museum in Washington.
In addition to making work, Gray has written about glass, curated and juried multiple exhibitions, and has taught workshops around the world. In 2017, she received the Libenský/Brychtová Award from the Pilchuck Glass School for her artistic and educational contributions to the field. She was also honored as a Fellow of the American Craft Council (ACC), a national nonprofit dedicated to advancing American craft. To be named a fellow, an artist must demonstrate leadership in the field, outstanding ability as an artist and/or teacher, and 25 years or more of professional achievement as an American craftsperson. Currently, Gray lives in Los Angeles where she is a professor of art at California State University, San Bernardino.
To Gray, glass is a material of both otherworldly perfection and mundane familiarity. She says: “I’m trying to play off of polarities between usage of material and the sphere it exists in, who makes it, who uses it, who values it, and trying to point out some of the inequalities.”