Sunday, March 26, 2017

Discovering Duncan McClellan Glass

Work by Richard Jolley

Is there a world record for the number of times someone has spontaneously uttered "oh my god!" in an hour?  If so, I surely beat it during my recent visit to Duncan McClellan Glass in St. Petersburg. This off-the-beaten-path gallery is chock-full of stunning, creative glass sculptures. 

The first portion of the gallery is dedicated to the current exhibit, which changes monthly. (If you happen to visit during St. Pete's Second Saturday Art Walk during the season, you can meet the artists.)  I methodically worked my way around the space, resisting my desire to dart from work to work that caught my eye. With 7,800 square feet of display space, this required more than a little discipline.

Work by the Salvadore Brothers
At the end of the gallery, there's an enclosed room that you enter through a door with handles made of blown glass. I have no idea how it's determined which works are displayed there, but each piece was brilliant. 

The work by Marco and Mattia Salvadore were ablaze with color. Coincidentally, Dorrit and I had recently marveled at some glass musical instruments blown by their father, Davide Salvadore, at Ringling College's Basch Gallery. I learned that the carving in these pieces is done by fellow artists Pietro and Ricardo Ferro, whose work is also on display. Perhaps not surprisingly, both the Salvadores and the Ferros are from Murano, Italy. For an interview with the Ferros by Eric Goldschmidt at the Corning Museum of Glass (and a demonstration of "cold work"), click here
"Floater Five Cosmonaut"
by Rik Allen

The work of Rik Allen blew me away with its creativity. It's fair to say that the last thing I expected to see when I entered the gallery was an astronaut blown and sculpted from glass.  Allen graduated from the prestigious Pilchuk Glass School in Seattle and worked for more than a decade on William Morris' sculpture team. But the vastness of space always appealed to him, not least of all as a means of inner contemplation. For a great article about Allen and a look at more of his work, click here

I would be remiss if I didn't share some of Duncan McClellan's own work in this post. By and large, his work made its home on the top of floor to ceiling shelves, so it was difficult to photograph. But the gallery boasts an outdoor area with an impressive sculpture garden where several of McClellan's pieces can be found amidst the greenery. It made me a bit nervous to see blown glass displayed in the elements, but I was assured the works were so heavy they wouldn't come to harm in the absence of hurricane-force winds.

"Tandem" by McClellan
McClellan studied the creation of glass art in both Italy and the U.S.  He exhibited his work for more than 30 years before converting an abandoned tomato packing plant into his gallery. In time, McClellan added a workshop where he and other glass artists create.

McClellan and his wife also call the gallery home, which explains the comfortable seating areas throughout -- and a shower hidden behind etched glass. The space is available for event rentals and was being set up for a wedding the day I was there. What an incredible spot for a celebration -- so long as you can count on your guests not to be clumsy!

Rogers' "Retro Trees"
Back to the sculpture garden, which includes a variety of non-glass works.  I was struck by the beauty of Mark Chatterly's sculptures and the whimsy of Dale Rogers' work, like these "Retro Trees." (I'm fairly certain I've seen Rogers' work before at the Marietta Museum of Whimsy.)  Rogers says he hopes his work will serve as a "mental postcard."

I'm thrilled to have discovered Duncan McClellan Glass which, in my opinion, rivals the contemporary collection at the Corning Museum of Glass. I can't wait to visit again. With any luck, I'll also have the chance to take in a demo.

To read more about the Gallery, the artists who show there and upcoming events, click here. Better yet, plan a visit of your own. 


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