Tuesday, July 13, 2010
Glass artists, Rick & Valerie Beck recently visited Spectrum Gallery where they are our featured artists for July. It was such a great opportunity to get to know them better and to learn more about the intricacies of their glass art. I've known them for many years and have visited their home studio in the North Carolina mountains, near Penland. It is such a privilege to represent their work.
"When meeting the Becks I saw two people who were as bonded as their glass. They are kindred spirits in creation and life. Their love of nature and animals become elements reflected in their unique designs. One great example is this painted vessel showing their dog Milo in a field of cows (he just loves cows for some reason)." Kathleen Gray
Valerie hand paints these motifs onto the glass when it is a small form on the blow pipe. She uses a specialized vitreous enamel which is no longer available. The glass blank is then encased in more clear glass and blown and manipulated into its final form. I am simplifying the process, but it is anything but simple. There are multiple layers of paint which must be "cooked" each time before more paint or glass is added. She also has to understand the way a piece will grow when it is stretched. Some colors absorb the heat and move at a different rates than others.
Her vivid color palette is one thing that makes Valerie's painted vessels so appealing. They take on a totally different color quality than your average blown glass objects. She can add colors that are not readily available in glass and she can control their interaction with the stroke of a brush. Her motifs are naive and charming with a nod to pop art.
Valerie just informed us that due to its lead content, this type of enamel is no longer manufactured and that other products simply do not perform in the same way. What that means is this is the final collection of the Beck's painted vessels. Once these are gone, there will be no more. Can you say "collector's piece"? She is earnestly working to develop a new direction and I'm sure it will be fascinating.
Rick Beck is a master glass artist with degrees from Hastings College and Southern Illinois University at Carbondale. After the Beck's both completed graduate school, they went on to art residencies at the Appalachian Center for Crafts and the Penland School of Crafts. In addition Rick has taught at the Pilchuck Glass School. His sculpted, cast and carved creations are in museum collections such as the Mint Museum in Charlotte and he represented by some of the top glass galleries in the country.
Rick is intrigued with contrasts; small objects depicted in monumental scale, sturdy tools created in fragile glass, deceptively simple forms and rich colors challenge the eye and the mind. Among his inspirations are Picasso, Matisse, Modigliani. Their influence can be seen in his figurative forms.
Once again, the process of creating these sculptures is much more complicated that they appear. He sculpts an original in clay and then builds a plaster mold around it. Once the mold is completed, he scoops out the clay original and fills the mold with chunks of recycled glass. This is then slump cast into the form. The final edit comes when he breaks out his grinding tools to refine and shape and modify the casting. Chemistry comes into play when the glass alloys or veils with lines that can form between the original chunks. The serendipitous aspects of working with hot glass combine with the intentional carving away of excess glass until he reveals the artwork within.
The density of the sculpture affects the color of these luminous creations. I think that one of the main reasons we are all so attracted to glass is its many personalities between opaque and translucent, shiny and textured, and all the myriad of colors.
Stop by the gallery to see the collection or visit our website. Spectrum Art & Jewelry