STEVE LEWIS/Durango Herald
Inside a furnace burning at 2,400 degrees Fahrenheit, Bengt Hokanson spins a glowing orb of fiery hot glass. He quickly pulls it from the furnace and flips it hand over hand before Trefny Dix blows it into shape.
After several more repetitions, Hokansan and Dix delicately place the shallow glass bowl inside a cooling furnace. Normally, there is no round of applause, but today, almost 20 people give them a standing ovation.
The demonstration Saturday and Sunday at Hokanson Dix Glass was part of HOT!, the Durango Arts Center’s celebration of 50 years of studio glass in the United States. The show features an international collection of glasswork in the Barbara Conrad Gallery, as well as several trunk shows, demonstrations, lectures and ongoing films.
“The idea was to have a representation of different artists and different types of glass art that represents work over the last 50 years,” said Sandy Sardella, owner of PISMO Fine Art Glass. All pieces on display at DAC are selections from the three PISMO galleries in Denver, Vail and Aspen.
“People still think of glass as what was made in factories ... the same thing over and over again,” Sardella said. “I want them to know how creative it can be.”
Sardella and DAC have certainly proved it with HOT! The eclectic collection borders on the impossible – or at least our notion of it until now.
Of note is New Mexico artist Charles Miner’s “Salmon Run,” a vase-type vessel in the shape of three-dimensional spawning salmon. Demetra Theofanous’ “Choice,” a bird’s nest perched delicately in a blossoming cherry tree, defies the traditional notion of glasswork. The show also features the internationally award-winning artist Lino Tagliapietra of Murano, Italy, Petr Hora from the Czech Republic and the Borowski Brothers of Germany.
“(Glasswork) is a great medium. It has the ability to be so many different things,” Dix said. “The show is a unique opportunity to see an incredibly huge variety of glass that’s happening in the world. You don’t see shows like this in a small town.”
There are several other events associated with HOT! including two glass jewelry trunk shows, On July 20, Sardella and Marianne Lorenz, executive director of the Fort Collins Museum of Art, will lead a discussion on the significance of glasswork as an art form. And Roger Dale, an Ignacio glass artist, will give another glassblowing demonstration July 28 and 29 at his studio.
“(People) understand glasswork functionally, but as a sculptural art medium, they don’t know anything about it,” Dix said.
In 1960, Harvey Littleton helped establish glasswork as an art form rather than a manufactured product. He hosted the first glass blowing seminar in 1962 and consequently inspired hundreds of artists, some of whom are represented at HOT!, through his hot glass program at the University of Wisconsin, the first of its kind.
As a celebration, HOT! continues Littleton’s goal of educating the arts community about glasswork. Between the demonstrations and discussions and the eclectic representation of work, HOT! is a thorough introduction to an underrepresented art form in the Southwest.
Margaret Hedderman is a freelance writer based in Durango. Reach her at email@example.com.