When you visit a glass gallery, you run into a very different style of work than that reflected in an ancient museum. A glass gallery will exhibit the practical as well as art in glass. Glass designs in a museum, while clearly artistic pieces, tend to reflect practical usages. While the fine arts of the past did include a glass sculptor or two among their productive members, the fragile nature of glass objects resulted in their disappearance into the mists of time. As a result, there are no remains of glass sculpture by the ancient craftsmen.
The earliest glass designs were the products of Western Asia and the Middle East. The records found in Mesopotamia and Egypt indicate glass to be in use as early as 1400 BC. The earliest glass objects actually date from around 2,500 BC and were probably made using the now rare cold working process. Mesopotamia produced art in glass in mosaic form. Mosaics rose to a peak in the Mycenaean period of Greece. The Roman artisans carried the skill forwards.
When Rome fell, the tradition of glass making declined. In fact, glass art and practical glass making essentially disappeared. The Middle Ages invented Stained glass but it was not until the Italian Renaissance that the fine art of glass reinvented itself. Glass blowing and many other techniques became refined and the craft and/or art of producing glass flourished.
The arrival of the Industrial Revolution changed the way glass was created. No longer were glass designs and creations the result of individual small artisanal shops. The emphasis was on industrial manufacturing of commercial product. The artistic became replaced by industrial design.
Artists such as American Louis Comfort Tiffany (1848-1933) and Frenchmen Émile Gallé (1846-1904) and René Lalique (1860-1945) attempted to revive the fine art aspects of glass production, with some success. He promoted what was to become studio glass, at that time an expensive proposition. World War II, however, almost put an end to their efforts. However, American Harvey K. Littleton (1922 - ) revived the skill and led the charge with a small glass sculpture and a series of workshops.
By the 1970s, the fine arts had again been adorned with the return of art in glass. A sculpture artist could begin to work in the medium outside the industrial shop. The movement to free glass art from industry had begun to take shape. However, as the decades passed, contemporary art began to embrace the technology that made certain glass designs feasible. The works appearing in many a glass gallery began to reveal the connections between art, science, nature and technology. The glass sculpture artist once again faced the dichotomy of being the product of a craft or a designer.
Today, glass designs come from many sources. The resource may be the same, but the rendering of the material continues to result in a variety of creative fine art pieces. While hot glass sculpting and molding is in the majority, cold glass art has a specific and unique niche in the contemporary art world in which it operates. Jack Storms continues the tradition. He is a cold glass artist, one of the few in North America working. His work, Phoenix-like, exhibits the frailty and complexity found in the best of sculpture. By developing his own cold glass art lathe and utilizing his own unique process, he has captured the essence of glass art. He has combined the new technology with the hard work of the artisan to create memorable changing flashes of illumination snared in crystal and eternally flowing outwards and upwards towards the light.
8858 Art in Glass: A History from the Egyptians to Jack Stor