, Newburyport, MA


July 25, 2013

Classical glass

Artist institute brings four glass blowers to Salem State this month


“My wife and I thought, maybe we could help this by sponsoring a group of emerging artists and have them work for one month, and we’d pay for everything and let them think of nothing but blowing glass,” Ira Rosenberg said. “There are so many emerging artists, and we need emerging artists.”

Rosenberg, well-known as the founder of the Ira Toyota car dealership, is also a passionate collector of unique glassworks.

In addition to funding the program, he was part of the panel that chose artists for the residencies.

“We were able to come up with four great candidates,” he said. “One of them I’m expecting to become a major artist, a major glass artist.”

Regardless of whether that turns out to be Chris Watts, who has taught at Diablo Glass School of Boston for 11 years, Watts is grateful to have been chosen for the program.

“This is a huge opportunity for me,” he said. “It’s going to free me up from teaching obligations. The residency is going to allow me to focus on the development of a whole new series of pieces.”

Watts, who graduated from Rhode Island School of Design in 1990 and Massachusetts College of Art in 2007, credits an earlier residency — at the National Glass Centre in Sunderland, England, from 1998 to 1999 — with a previous transition in his work.

He was admitted to the program with his wife, Sarah, and discovered an affinity for conceptual art, which is evident in “Hirst” from 2009, a parody of Damien Hirst’s 2007 creation “For the Love of God.”

Hirst’s flamboyant original is a skull made with platinum, diamonds and human teeth, and it sold for a huge sum of money.

Watts’ work is also a skull, but it was made from windows that had been pulled from foreclosed homes in poor sections of Boston.

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