In sculpting realistic figures of humans and horses adorned with color and pattern, Ross Richmond demonstrates how an artist can push his medium beyond its normal boundaries. The artist creates beautiful and expressionistic sculpture using gesture to convey narrative. Communication has always been the main source of Richmond’s inspiration, whether it be with oneself or between others.
Richmond discovered glass in 1991 during his time at the Cleveland Institute of Art, where he received a BFA in glass, with a minor in metals. He is considered one of the top glass sculptors in the field today and has worked with (and for) some of the greatest glass and non-glass artists including William Morris, Jane Rosen, Preston Singletary, KeKe Cribbs, and Dale Chihuly. Richmond studied and taught at The Studio of the Corning Museum of Glass (CMoG), Penland School of Craft and the Pilchuck Glass School. The artist was awarded residencies at the Tacoma Museum of Glass, Toledo Glass Museum and CMoG. His work is represented by a number of galleries across the country.
Working as an apprentice in 1997, Richmond became a member of Morris’ glassblowing team in 1999 and worked alongside him until his retirement in 2007. Morris encouraged teamwork and working outside the box – lessons reflected in both the surface and shape of Richmond’s exquisite horse figures.
All of Richmond’s work is blown and hot sculpted, meaning that nothing is casted or mold blown – all pieces are made by hand while hot on the pipe in the glass shop. First, the main shape of the piece is established then allowed to cool. Working it in a colder state affords the artist a more “solid core” to work from. If the piece is too hot, the shape will distort as the details are brought out. A small oxygen-propane torch is used for all of the detail work, which allows for a greater variety of flame shapes and sizes to work with. Heads are typically blown, whereas all hands are solid. With a blown shape, Richmond is able to inflate areas or suck areas in as needed. Hands are made solid so that delicate fingers do not collapse or distort. All colors are applied in layers of glass powders, and the finished piece is coated with an acid to remove the shine for a matte finish.
The inspiration for Richmond’s figures made between 2015 and 2018, was derived from ancient Egyptian sculpture, Japanese prints and Art Nouveau graphics, which all use or are inspired by natural scenes and landscapes. All of these different time periods and genres produced works that were highly ornate, yet simplistic in form and composition. Richmond used color and pattern to decorate and adorn the robes his figures are wearing to create imagery and convey a setting or scenery, to place the figure in a natural environment. Imagery of blossoming flowers or trees convey growth or growing to create the feeling of springtime bliss, awakening after the winter slumber. Carved imagery or applied components provide a bas relief and texture to an otherwise flat and smooth surface.
Richmond says: “The figure has always been a major theme in my work, and in this series, I am breaking down the human form into a basic shape as if it were draped in fabric. This keeps the eye from focusing on the details of anatomy, and lets the viewer follow the sweeping gestural lines of the form. The basic shape of the body along with its quiet contemplative facial features, gives these figures a calm meditative feel.”
In 2016, Richmond and Randy Walker were awarded a collaborative residency at CMoG. Having worked together on the Morris glassblowing team, the two artists utilized well-learned teamwork combined with strengths in form, color, and the ability to push the bounds of the material. Walker created objects that seemed to grow out of and be part of the natural world, while Richmond sculpted realistic figures adorned with color and pattern. Marrying their aesthetic, objects were transformed from natural objects into figurative works.
Over the last few years, Richmond has been slowly building his own hot glass studio in Seattle. From March 4 through 27, Traver Gallery presents a unique exhibition of works by Jane Rosen and Richmond. Though their influence is always visible in one another’s artwork, this is the first time they have shown side by side. This exhibition celebrates and highlights the critical impact of artist friendships and highlights the vital influence each has on the other.