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Saturday, October 01, 2005

Fragile spirits

Being on my own this weekend (the rest of my family is in St. Louis visiting friends and family while my wife gives a colloquium at the grad school where she got her PhD), I decided I would indulge myself in my own implementation of the standard geeky pleasures: watching way too much Firefly on TiVo, eating junk food, drinking beer, coding, playing XBox, and surfing the web for free pr0n diligently researching material for this blog. Realizing that trying to fossilize myself in Cheeto™ crumbs was only going to be satisfying for so long, I also decided that it would probably be a Good Thing to see what was going on in town this weekend, maybe get out and get some air - and I saw a winner: Fusing Traditions: Transformations in Glass by Native American Artists. I'd read about this earlier in the week, and, having an interest in warm/hot glass art, I'd already decided that I needed to go to this exhibit before it left town - and then I saw the image in the ad that was in the paper's weekend section:

Spirit Wolf by Joe David (2001)

That sealed it - I had to go. One Culture-Day-comma-Voluntary-comma-one-each, coming up. Organized by the Museum of Craft and Folk Art of San Francisco, CA, this travelling exhibit showcases some of the highlights of contemporary Native American artists who are working in that ancient medium, glass. Have you ever watched a glass blower? There's something almost magical about the way they work blobs of glass, radiant and orange at almost 2500° F, flowing like honey, no colors showing until the glass cools. A glassblower working with their assistants is part shaman, part dancer, part dom. They have to feel that which they cannot touch, sense the flow, the movements of the glass. They have to trust their own intuition, sure in their experience, their knowledge, that the glass is obeying their will. Of course, it doesn't always work like that - arriving at the museum, there was a portable 'hot shop' set up on the front stairs, and several of the artists with work in the exhibit were taking turns demonstrating their craft, their magic to a small but enraptured crowd. It was clear that the space was too small, the workspace too improvised for things to go entirely smoothly - and it was still wondrous to watch. (And as an added bonus, the rock star of the glass world, Dale Chihuly wandered up to the Burke Museum from his Lake Union houseboat/studio to watch for a while and chat with these former students of his.) The exhibit itself isn't terribly large, but the work was quite impressive. Most (but not all) of the pieces drew upon various Native American mythological and spiritual traditions, such as the cast glass wolf skull above, or a cast and carved piece depicting Raven stealing the Moon. Others were traditional craft objects redone in glass: cedar boxes of the Northwest, pottery of the Southwest. Still others blended American pop art through a Native filter. It was an altogether satisfying way to spend an afternoon... before returning to my geeky sloth of the evening. (Quickly clicking "Publish Post" - the lights are flickering due to the very rare thunderstorm we're having tonight...)


Blogger Carnacki said...

Excellent post. Spent last Thanksgiving at the American Indian museum in DC with the wife and kids and DCDemocrat. Didn't get the chance to see as much as I would have liked. Sounds like you've had a great weekend. I love the chances when I get to bachelor it.

10/01/2005 08:51:00 PM  
Blogger protected static said...

Yep, just me and the dogs. If only I could figure out how to get them to load & unload the dishwasher... Hmmm...

As for not seeing as much as you wanted, I feel that way every time I visit the Smithsonian... We moved before they'd even broken ground on the American Indian museum - it's definitely on my list of places to see the next time I'm there.

10/01/2005 09:21:00 PM  

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