The wonders and possibilities of glass 

The sparkle and variety at the excellent new exhibit at the Museum of Craft + Design reminds one of Murano, the famed Venetian island that teems with multicolored creations of blown glass.

Yet upon a closer look, "CCA: A Legacy in Studio Glass," which celebrates 40 years of glass-making at California College of the Arts, reveals an entirely different process and results that share little with traditional glass masters of the Old World.

Unlike in Europe, where one person designs the glass piece and another crafts it in a factory setting, American glass artists go through a different method, invented in the 1960s.

Using an inexpensive glass furnace, they can control the entire process — from designing to blowing — right in their studios. As the exhibit’s curator Carolyn Kastner explains, this new, personalized studio glass art was the American contribution to the long tradition of glassmaking.

One of the first students to learn the techniques of studio glass art was Marvin Lipofsky, who went on to found the CCA glass program in 1967. A few of his vibrant, abstract pieces are on display at the exhibit, which also contains the works of 36 other artists, all students and faculty from the program’s four-decade past.

The style of each glass piece is unique and only a few are vessels reminiscent of Murano. The reason for this variety in artistic vision is the program’s emphasis on sculpture, says adjunct professor Pamina Traylor, whose wonderfully organic and intricate "Yielding" was inspired by Eva Hesse’s sculptures.


(Courtesy photo) One of Marvin Lipofsky's "California Loop Series."

Across from Traylor’s work is alumnae Melodie Beylik’s gorgeous "The Sun’s Biased Analemma," where yellow and orange glass disks are attached to the museum’s wall in a pattern of the sun’s apparent track.

Even when the artists choose similar subjects, their treatments are incomparable. While Bruce Pizzichillo’s huge glass house, called "Homestay Lombok," looks nothing like glass,Mary Bayard White’s light blue brick house on a movable metal stand celebrates the translucency of the medium. And although Charles Parriott and Lynne-Rachel Altman have both created glass heads, neither their use of the medium nor the subject matter bear any similarity. Altman’s "Empty Heads" are made out of crushed glass and poignantly describe the fragility of man. Parriott’s painted and lit "Uran Soldiers," on the other hand, are anything but fragile.

Several of the artists offer interesting comments on social issues, such as 76-year-old alumnae Bella Feldman, whose three pieces of glass and found metal reveal her anger about the war in Iraq. In neighboring "The Three Sisters Monsanto," recent graduate Wiley Jackson comments on food used as a weapon, when he puts edible seeds in shell casings from World War II.

(Courtesy photo) Pamina Taylor's "Model for New Work"

In its subject matter, "CCA: A Legacy in Studio Glass" is seemingly a narrow study of a use of one medium in one place, but instead it reveals a great variety of techniques, styles, and ideas, and, most importantly, never gets monotonous.

This exhibit is also the first event to open the celebration of the California College of the Arts’ centennial anniversary this year.


"CCA: a Legacy in Studio Glass"

Where: San Francisco Museum of Craft + Design, 550 Sutter St., San Francisco

When: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Thursdays, noon to– 5 p.m. Sundays; closes April8

Tickets: Suggested admission $3 general, $2 for students and seniors, free for youth under 18

Contact: (415) 773-0303 or


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