NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

PortWatch

July 25, 2013

Classical glass

Artist institute brings four glass blowers to Salem State this month

(Continued)

“The windows had a strong fluctuation in market value and declined in value,” he said. “I was using that glass, especially for the Hirst, because (he is an) icon of market value. I wanted to juxtapose those.”

To appreciate such pieces, you need to know the idea behind their creation, but they can also be seen as exquisitely crafted works of glass.

“Ideas are immaterial by nature,” Watts said. “Part of what makes conceptual art live is, it’s brought beyond just the idea phase into actual being.”

If Watts’ work has reflected on commercial value, and the commodities — like art and glass — in which it is embodied, that is in part because he has had to use his glass-blowing skills to make a living.

“Restaurants seemed to be our main business,” he said, for which he made vessels and architectural lighting.

As it frees him from the need to work, the month at Salem State will allow Watts to pursue yet another transition in his work, from economic to aesthetic themes.

“The residency work is about how glass can relate to art in different forms,” he said. “I’m making shapes that will be cut in half on a vertical axis. You’ll have a profile of those vessels — those profiles will be embedded into a flat surface, a plaster surface. They become a line drawing in glass.”

The glassworks studio at Salem State was founded eight years ago by professor John Volpacchio, who from the beginning hoped that it would host resident artists, along with training undergraduates, Mentuck said.

About 100 students a year take classes in the studio, and several will be helping out at the weekly glass-blowing demonstrations.

With all the physical activity involved in blowing, rolling and shaping glass using a variety of tools, glass blowing has been described — by Karen Gahagan, director of Salem State’s center for creative and performing arts — as a kind of spectator sport, with all the suspense focusing on the final product.

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