Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Imagine Museum Does Shakespeare

From the Precipice series 
by Leah Wingfield and Steve Clements
When different art forms interact, creativity explodes. Case in point: the inventiveness on display during St. Petersburg's Celebration of the Arts: Shakespeare. The inaugural city-wide festival challenged arts institutions to develop programming during the month of February related to Shakespeare. Imagine Museum accepted the challenge by exhibiting works of glass art by couples who in turn were challenged to choose a Shakespearean couple and a romantic quote from the applicable play for a special display card. It was brilliant.

The work of Leah Wingfield and Steve Clements has evolved from glass blowing to collaborative sculpting and casting. This photo is a detail from a work in their Precipice series. In the series, they explore the impact of wind, both as a welcome breath of fresh air and as a destructive force. They comment in their website that when two people are on a precipice together, the impact of that wind is diminished.

Ikebana Inspiration (2016) 
by John Littleton and Kate Vogel

Their choice of Shakespearean couple was Romeo and Juliet.  And the quote that spoke to them:

"This bud of love by summer's ripening breath,
May prove a beauteous flower when next we meet."

Kate Vogel and John Littleton have been a team in life and art since 1979. They began their collaboration in the North Carolina studio of John's father Harvey Littleton, himself a glass artist of acclaim. They chose Rosalind and Orlando from As You Like It as their couple, along with this beautiful quote:

"No sooner met but they looked, no sooner looked but they loved, no sooner loved but they sighed, no sooner sighed but they asked one another the reason, no sooner knew the reason but they sought the remedy, and in these degrees they made a pair of stairs to the marriage."

By Chrstine Bothwell and Robert Bender
Christina Bothwell and Robert Bender are part of the Glass Secessionist Movement, a group of artists who focus on the narrative in their work rather than the materials. This picture is a detail from a work that features seven children sitting on a bench. Some figures contain references to nature, such as the butterflies embedded in the second child. It's impossible to look at this sculpture without creating a story about who and where these children are and what they're doing.

The couple's collaboration grew out of their work in different art forms. While Bothwell has always been a glass artist, Bender spent 20 years illustrating children's books. He became a glass artist in this own right after assisting Bothwell with her work.

 Helena and Demetrius from A Midsummer Night's Dream were Bothwell and Bender's selection. The quote:

"Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind,
And therefore is winged Cupid painted blind."

By Kelly O'Dell and Raven Skyriver
Kelly O'Dell and Raven Skyriver create work individually and together that is inspired by nature. (The reptile is their creation; the gorgeous white bamboo wall is by Debora Moore.) The pair met at Pilchuk, an art glass school founded by Dale Chihuly. They live on the San Juan Islands of Washington state. Their work has clearly struck a chord with many art glass lovers. Their Kickstarter campaign to build a studio on their home island of Lopez has raised close to $125,000, nearly double their goal. (Having their studio on-island will save them 10,000 miles of commuting time each year.)

Their Shakespearean selection was Pericles and Thaisa from Pericles, Prince of Tyre. I have to admit to never having heard of this play. But the quote could not be more apt:

"To me he seems like diamond to glass."

By Jenny Pohlman and Sabrina Knowles 
Shakespearean couple: Biron and Rosaline 
from Love's Labour Lost
Kudos go out to the organizers and sponsors of St. Petersburg's Celebration of the Arts. If I'd known about the festival sooner, I would have taken in some of the other offerings, which included "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Aren't Dead" improv inspired by Hamlet, St. Petersburg's Winter Opera "Kiss Me, Kate" (Cole Porter's take on Taming of the Shrew) and an exhibit and lecture at Florida CraftArt built around the quote "I as rich in having such a jewel" from The Two Gentleman of Verona. Happily, plans are already in the works for next year's celebration, which will include events and exhibits around the theme of tolerance, civility and acceptance.

Kudos as well to Imagine Museum for participating in the celebration. It was just icing on the cake of my first visit to this amazing museum.

Next up in this blog: Karen LaMonte's "Floating World" exhibit now on display at the museum.

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