“An Object of Beauty: Metal / Fiber / Glass,” opening Sunday at Fowler-Kellogg Art Center, includes a coping saw made of melted pennies, a crocheted sword from the cartoon “He-Man” and a shovel cast in glass, among other pieces.
Judy Barie, Visual Arts at Chautauqua Institution’s galleries director, said she was looking for unusual and unexpected objects made of each material — metal, fiber and glass — for the exhibit.
“How often do you see an airplane made of glass?” Barie said, pointing out a piece by Travis Rohrbaugh.
Rohrbaugh scavenges Goodwill stores for old picture frames to use in his glass projects. He called plate glass the glass equivalent of light balsa wood, which craftsmen often use to build model airplanes. Rohrbaugh recently started using a water jet cutter to get a more precise cut and clean joints on the glass.
“The glass has to be very clean for the glue to cure,” Rohrbaugh said.
He uses UV glue, which dries under a UV light in 10 to 15 seconds. Rohrbaugh said the sun could also be used to set the joints of his planes, but it would take much longer.
Rohrbaugh said he would someday like to make his glass airplanes flyable.
Three rooms open into one another on the second floor of Fowler-Kellogg, where Barie staged “An Object of Beauty.” While the metal, fiber and glass works form a single show, Barie dedicated one room to each material.
“You can look through the rooms from one to another,” Barie said. “I find this really interesting, that you look over these sea pods to the animals made of BB pellets.”
The sea pod piece sits in the middle of the fiber room. It’s by Laura Tabakman, an artist Barie met through an art group in Pittsburgh. Barie visited Tabakman’s studio after a fiber arts guild show to pick out the exact pieces she wanted for “An Object of Beauty.”
Tabakman’s piece includes circles of silk standing up on tall wires, almost like reeds by the water. She rusted the silk by sprinkling it with iron, water and salt and letting it sit for a few hours.
Tabakman spent two days at Fowler-Kellogg in mid-June installing her sea pod piece, working five to six hours each day to get the pods to fit together the way she had intended.
To further link the three rooms, Barie chose a piece of art for each, in its respective medium, containing the image of a bird. She also created subtle echoes of shapes across the three mediums; for example, the thin wire lines in Tabakman’s fiber pieces are reflected in the lines artist Garry Pyles creates with his metal sculptures.
“I told [Barie],” Pyles said, “ ‘Every show that I’ve been to that you curated, it all comes together as a whole.’ She knows how to create meaningful echoes. Across different media, that’s very impressive.”
Barie first saw Pyles’ work on a studio visit to see work by his partner, Atticus Adams, a sculpture and installation artist who exhibited at a previous show at the Institution.
Pyles works intuitively with sculpture, starting with a big idea and creating his wire forms from there. In a recent series, he worked off the idea of “a circuitous path to happiness.” Barie chose a piece made of wire and fishing weights from that series.
Pyles started working as a painter. He later became more inspired by metalwork, but missed the color mixing that painting allowed. He found a way to combine the best of both mediums — Pyles mixes brightly-colored resins, beeswax and wax crayons, which he attaches to the ends of his metal twists.
Tabakman, Pyles and Rohrbaugh will all visit the Institution for the opening of “An Object of Beauty,” along with many of the exhibition’s other artists.
“I found all their work interesting and unusual and beautiful in the show,” Barie said. “And I think other people will think of it in the same way.”