California Studio Glass Salute

State's mid-century glass art pioneers celebrated via new San Jose exhibition
California Studio Glass
Don't miss the free exhibit 'Sparks: California Glass Networks 1960s to Present - the Glass Movement Catches Fire' running through June 7 at San Jose City College.
California Studio Glass
Berkeley glass artist Michael Cohn, who will be featured in the 'Sparks' exhibit.
California Studio Glass
Glass sculpture by Marvin Lipofsky.

The birth of the Studio Glass Movement was an exciting time, with dozens of artists and hordes of art lovers delighted with this sudden outpouring of handmade work by artists and crafts people who were suddenly able to make glass art on their own, not in some huge factory.

That was 50 years ago, when glass art made by independent artists first came to the fore. Not a long time ago. But already some of the pioneers of the movement are wondering—is its history being forgotten?

"We are out to reconstruct a history that is about to vanish," says Mary White, one of the organizers of an important Bay Area show about the history of Studio Glass in California, 'Sparks: California Glass Networks 1960s to Present - the Glass Movement Catches Fire.'

"People forget," she adds.

The exhibit, which runs through June 7 at the Carmen Castellano Fine Arts Gallery at San Jose City College, 2100 Moorpark Avenue, is free. There will be works by White, Marvin Lipofsky, Glen Lukens, Jim Lundberg, and many others. It was co-curated by James Wayne.

In America, White says, the Studio Glass Movement got underway in 1962 when Harvey Littleton began a glass arts program at the University of Wisconsin, following workshops in Ohio. The movement hit California two years later with programs established at San Jose State and UC Berkeley.

The exhibit will feature work by people associated with both these California schools and with others as well, tracing networks of connections between teachers and students that continue on to today.

"This is a historic hot spot," White says of the Bay Area. "Our thesis is all the schools sparked a real movement in California, and public education has a lot to do with it." The exhibit features work from people who were at two dozen different educational institutions.

"The idea is to show, from 1960s to the present, the progression of the schools and the alumni," says White, who led the glass arts program at San Jose State for 20 years and today is at Oakland's art space the Crucible.

Although the exhibit will illustrate how much glass art is rooted in the academy, it will be far from academic. The work shown, about 56 pieces, ranges from the wacky to the sublime to the downright beautiful.

At the end, White suggests, glass art is not really about glass. It's about art.

Speaking of a sleek piece of glass sculpture by Berkeley artist Michael Cohn, White says, "It's really kind of what the glass movement is all about. It doesn't matter what material you use. You're using the material to make sculpture, and you're using the material to say what you want to say."

For more on the 'Sparks' glass movement exhibit, click here.