On Fire: Surveying Women in Glass in the Late-Twentieth Century is a snapshot of a crucial period in contemporary glass. Seen through the eyes of women, it reflects developments with the medium as an art material two and three decades after studio glass concepts were being implemented into university programs and contemporary practices. With work drawn from RAM’s collection and centered on the 1980s and 1990s, this exhibition outlines the concerns of artists dedicated to exploring the sculptural, visual, metaphorical, and creative potential of glass.
On Fire includes various examples of work produced within the studio glass framework—as self-consciously made art that reflects artistic investigations of materials, processes, and ideas. Artists include Sonja Blomdahl, Kimiake Higuchi, Concetta Mason, Flo Perkins, Kari Russell-Pool, Ginny Ruffner, Acquaetta Williams, Ann Wolff, and Toots Zynsky. Numerous topics are explored, including identity, beauty, color, pattern, nature, abstraction, form, the figure, metaphor, process, and the properties and abilities of glass as a material. There are also a range of techniques represented, including blowing, lampworking, casting, fusing, carving, polishing, pâte de verre, assembling, and various surface treatments. In essence, the exhibition summarizes the experimental nature of the artists and of studio glass in general.
The exhibition title alludes not only to certain techniques of physically working with glass but also to the idea that some artists were innovating and making names for themselves—that they were “on fire” in their art world trajectory.
A critic of another recent all-female glass exhibition lamented about needing to draw attention to the fact that all of the artists were women—are they artists first or women first? And these conversations can also be limiting as they sidestep more fluid gender dynamics. Yet, in this particular moment in time, it is indeed important to draw attention to components that are beyond the objects themselves. Who the makers are and how they move through the world does impact the work, even if it is not the identifiable subject matter.
While pleased to highlight artwork incorporating glass at any time, RAM is especially proud to do so in 2022, which has been designated the International Year of Glass by the United Nations to celebrate the heritage and importance of the material in all facets of life.
Artists in the Exhibition
Sonja Blomdahl, Jane Bruce, Judith Candy, Tessa Clegg, Eva Englund, Sharon Fujimoto, Robin Grebe, Mieke Groot, Audrey Handler, Kimiake Higuchi, Linda MacNeil, Concetta Mason, Isgard Moje-Wohlegemuth, Etsuko Nishi, Flo Perkins, Ginny Ruffner, Kari Russell-Pool, Susan Shapiro, Mary Shaffer, Molly Stone, Cappy Thompson, Karla Trinkley, Meredith Wenzel, Acquaetta Williams, Ann Wolff, Dana Zámečníková, and Toots Zynsky