Catharine K. Newell
Diversity of thought and action is essential to our growth as human beings, yet entire segments of the world’s population are quite often eliminated from an individual’s psyche to provide a false sense of security through insulation and isolation. To some degree, mental, physical and visual spaces are created by each one of us for assumed person protection. This ability to separate oneself from, as well as to pass judgment on, the unknown says something interesting about the human condition.
We are a mystery even to ourselves. How can we possibly propose to describe someone else’s identity, to define their life? I dispute the notion that people ‘are’ a certain way, that they should be subjected to stereotype. Human beings possess a nature independent of how, from where, and by which light we as individuals choose to view them.
Layer upon layer of glass powder application seems a natural choice to illustrate the complexity of the individual. Through out this kilnforming process, glass lends itself to continual transformation and miracles of happenstance – a nice metaphor for human nature.
Approaches to this work vary, but the content is the same: attitudes fragmented for inspection, proximity questioned, relationships examined, invisibility denied, differences respected. This work is simply another look at humanity.
With the application of powders and frit, kilnforming becomes, for me, a loose, spontaneous, incredibly interactive art form, reliant upon constantly evolving rendering and coloration skills and a thorough understanding of the properties of heated glass.
The process is a simple one. The initial steps of realizing this work are done cold: designing, cutting, grinding and fitting. Each of these works is composed of multiple ¼” layers (the thickness of two sheets of glass), individually constructed, of Bullseye glass. Once these elements have been assembled to my satisfaction, they are fully fused at 1480 degrees.
Each fused “building block” is then ready for powder application. I use powders to layer color, blend the palette, create negative space amid existing color, and to create texture and detail. I work with dry powders, sifting them onto a panel and then manipulating these areas with brushes, fingers, bamboos skewers, or whatever is at hand that fits my purpose. These multiple layers are then tack fused (at a temperature low enough to retain the grain of the powder, yet allowing the powder to adhere to its surface) and fritted time and again – often 15 or so firings - prior to being stacked and brought to a full fuse. The layering order of the final stack is often a flexible decision, dictated by firing results.
Most often, I continue to work the surface of the panel, preferring that the surface area be textural rather than glossy. Various matte finishes, achieved by tailoring firing schedule, bring these areas visually forward, suggesting closer proximity to the subject matter. Quite often a piece will endure 20 firing before it is declared complete. The finished work is the cold worked and mounted.