In 1989, Tim Tate received an HIV-positive diagnosis and was told he had one year to live. The terrible news inspired him to follow a dream he’d had since the age of 9 when he visited the Corning Museum of Glass. Driven to use the time he had left to become a glass artist, Tate travelled to Penland School of Crafts in North Carolina for the first in an intensive succession of classes. Penland and the artwork made during this time saved his life.
A Washington, D.C. native, Tate has been working with sculpture now for 30 years. Co-Founder of the Washington Glass School, his artwork is part of the permanent collections of a number of museums, including the Smithsonian’s American Art Museum and the Mint Museum. He participated in 2019’s Glasstress show with Ai Wei Wei and Vic Muniz during the Venice Biennale. Tate has received numerous awards and honors including the 2010 Virginia Groot Foundation award for sculpture; a Fulbright Award from Sunderland University, England, in 2012; second place in the 2017 London Contemporary Art Prize; and the 2018 James Renwick Alliance Distinguished Artist Award.
Along with William Warmus, Tate is the founder and moderator of the Facebook group 21st Century Glass – Images and Discussions. His involvement at Penland includes teaching, serving as featured artist for the 2018 annual auction, and acting as the Development Chair for the Penland Board of Trustees from 2014 to 2018.
In 2001, Tate helped establish the Washington Glass School to focus on sculptural glass made by kiln-casting and mixed media rather than traditional studio glassblowing techniques. Modeled after Penland and the Crucible in Oakland, the school has offered instruction to more than 4,000 students while providing a permanent studio in which Tate makes his work.
After 10 years of making bowls, between 1999 and 2005 Tate made 30 large blown glass hearts, an exercise which required him to work with a glassblowing team and revealed his preference to work solo. His Reliquary works created between 2004 and 2014 drew attention from journalists, galleries and critics, putting Tate on the map of the art world at large.
Never fully fitting into any one definition of Studio Glass, steampunk or video artist, Tate blends traditional craft with new media technology, the framework in which he fits his artistic narrative. Through moving images and endless mirrors his contemporary work possesses the aesthetic of Victorian techno-fetishism, which emerged from fascination with Jules Verne as a boy. Artwork and video, he believes, will be society’s relics of the future.
He says, “I like to reference many possible histories and will do so with video or mirrors to show our common artistic ancestry and illustrate alternate paths. Perhaps centuries from now my work will have the same presence as abandoned archaic machines from the Turn of the last Century, as people marvel over what could have possibly been its intent.”