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Past Exhibit

All Natural

October 8 – November 7

Glass exhibit curated by Kait Rhoads

For All Natural guest curator Kait Rhoads has selected ten contemporary, glass artists whose work references nature, although sometimes in an ironic or unexpected way.

Opening Reception: October 8, 5-8pm

Curator's Statement

All Natural as a title references the irritation that I feel towards food labeling, specifically the signifier "All Natural". To quote Wikipedia: "The term is assumed to imply foods that are minimally processed and do not contain manufactured ingredients, but the lack of standards in most jurisdictions means that the term assures nothing." To me creating art work that depicts nature with a medium that is extremely costly to produce and promotes the consumption of natural resources seems ironic and full of black humor, very much like the label "All Natural". How do I justify this as an artist working within this medium to express myself? Here are a few artists that create work that reference nature, regardless of if the work is political, decorative, spiritual or scientific in its nature. As we balance on the precipice of the effects of global warming become more and more apparent, how will we act as individuals to support our environment?

The work in this show demonstrates feats of excellence in executing work in the medium of glass. A celebration of the handmade and not mass produced.

Solid Waste, Rebecca Chernow

Participating Artists

All Natural unites the talented work of Joseph BenVenuto, Courtney Branam, Butter Eaters, Rebecca Chernow, CUD, Jen Elek, Daniel Joseph Friday, Sarah Gilbert, Amie McNeel, Samuel McMillen, Kelly O'Dell, Kait Rhoads, Amy Rueffert and Jennifer Umphress.

Joseph BenVenuto

Joe BenVenuto was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 1962. He attended the University of Washington where he received a BA in Anthropology/Archaeology in 2003. Joe began working with glass in 1989 as a designer and builder of custom leaded glass panels for the residential and architectural market. Joe began blowing glass in 1991 in Cincinnati, Ohio. Joe has traveled, taught and demonstrated various glassmaking techniques both hot and cold, nationally and internationally. Joe currently lives in Seattle, Washington where he splits his time between being the owner and operator of Sows Ear Studio, a professional coldworking and sculpture assembly studio, and working for and with many of today's top contemporary glass artists. Joe's work focuses on surface textures and is highly influenced by relics and artifacts of the past as well as his love of the natural world. Joe's technical approach to using glass as a means of expression lies in his attempting to exploit its properties and ability to mimic other materials such as earth, wood and clay.

Vessel by Jospeh BenVenuto

Courtney Branam

Courtney Branam's vessels are influenced and inspired as much from the history of glassblowing, as from personal experiences working with modern artists.  Rooted in a tradition that is meticulously on center, Courtney adds a modern twist that allows the work to become gestural and expressive.

Courtney Branam was born and raised in Houston, TX.  While studying engineering and graphic design at Texas Tech University, he discovered his passion for blowing glass.  Since graduating with a Bachelor of Arts, Courtney has traveled from Alaska To Australia - and parts in between -  practicing his craft.  He currently lives in Seattle and has worked as a freelance glass blower in numerous studios.  Courtney can frequently be found working at the Tacoma Museum of Glass with the hotshop team, as staff at Pilchuck Glass School and in studios of Pratt Fine Arts Center. In 2011, Courtney participated in several group exhibitions and had a solo exhibition at Vetri International and was featured as a Guest Artist at the Museum of Glass.  His work can be seen at Vetri Glass in Seattle, WA.

Butter Eaters

A Seattle-based hot glass collective formed in 1999, their name derived from a Robbie Miller documentary video "The Butter Eater", featuring Joseph Thomas eating a pound of butter in a 90 minute period.  Founders: Jen Elek, Jeremy Bert, Brian Pike, Levi Belber, Joe Thomas, Bennett McKnight and Erich Woll. 

"The Butter Eaters look at current events and American culture in a critically sarcastic tone.  The resulting sculptures are usually a montage of objects found in nature and fantastic scenes and juxtapositions not found in ordinary life.  Our work respects the traditions of glassmaking while mocking them at the same time. Collaborating and inspiring each other, the theatrical stylings and drama of a Butter Eaters performance are equally important to us as the finished artworks.  Frequently our work is made during demonstrations at schools and museums, involving the students and staff in the process."

They have created work from 1999 to 2014 at the Pilchuck Glass School, Stanwood, Museum of Glass in Tacoma, Toyama Institute of Glass, Toyama, Japan, Pratt Fine Arts Center in Seattle, Wilson High School in Tacoma and Calgary ACAD, Canada.

Rebecca Chernow

Rebecca Chernow was born and raised in upstate New York and has called Seattle home for the past ten years. She holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in glass from Alfred University and completed her graduate degree in sculpture from the University of Washington in 2014. 

Patchwork Pear, Amy Rueffert

Since relocating to the Pacific Northwest she has been actively involved in the local and international studio glass community as an independent artist, studio assistant to other established artists, and instructor of the medium to students of all ages and backgrounds. 

Rebecca's work is informed by a profound affinity for the natural landscape of the Pacific Northwest coupled with a dark sense of humor and playful approach to sculptural material that is informed by American consumerist culture.

CUD

John Drury and Robbie Miller each have more than 30 years of experience with glass and in 1988 formed the glass anomaly and influential collaborative effort CUD, at the Pilchuck Glass School. Chance, situation and unbridled humor inform non-traditional works in glass. Collaboration, concept and reflection of place enlighten the glass making processes in the creation of works and installations, displaying concerns for recycling, process and circumstance.

To date, Mr. Drury and Mr. Miller have taught students from throughout the United States, Argentina, Australia, England, Japan, India, Israel, Mexico, South Korea, Norway and Guatemala.

Jen Elek

Jen Elek graduated in 1994 from The New York school of Art and Design at Alfred University earning a BFA. Since moving to Seattle, WA in 1995 Jen has had the opportunity to work as both a glass artist and metal fabricator for many notable artists. In her own work Elek combines color, form, multiple components and innovative processes to create landscapes of glass and light.Jen teaches glassblowing blowing workshops internationally, sharing with students a practical working knowledge and exploring experimental processes. Since 2001, she has been a member of Lino Tagliapietra's glassblowing team. Jen shares a studio with husband Jeremy Bert in South Seattle. Jen exhibits her work internationally. Most recently, her work was featured in a collaborative exhibition with her husband titled "Look! See?" The Colors and Letters of Jeremy Bert and Jen Elek at The Museum of Glass in Tacoma WA and Pittsburgh Glass Center.

Bloom, Kait Rhoads

Daniel Joseph Friday

Daniel Joseph Friday is a Native of Washington State's Puget Sound region. Primarily a glass artist, he also sculpts in wood and metal. Drawing from cultural themes and modern processes Friday's work is contemporary in format while maintaining intrinsically Native American qualities. Friday lives in Seattle, where he both maintains an independent glass studio and works for a variety of artists in the glass community.

Sarah Gilbert

Sarah was raised in Rochester, NY, and began working in glass in 1999. She earned a BFA in glass and sculpture from Rochester Institute of Technology in 2005. Today, she's the Head Technician from the Tacoma Museum of Glass making sure the Hot Shop runs smoothly. A former Philly resident, Sarah sides with Geno's in the all-important cheesesteak debate.

Amie McNeel

Amie McNeel received a BFA from Kansas City Art Institute in 1989 and an MFA from University of California Berkeley in 1990. Her work communicates and marvels at the subtleties of the natural. Moving between sculptures crafted with wood, glass, clay, and steel, to delicate drawings and prints, McNeel creates a conversation between humans and the physical, organic world.

Samuel McMillen

Uni, Jennifer Umphress

Sam McMillen was raised in Anacortes, WA and has been living and working in Seattle for the past decade. He was introduced to glass blowing at the age of sixteen and has since made a career in that field as both a gaffer and assistant for many established international and local artists. His own work has been exhibited at museums, universities, and private galleries across the country.

In addition to being an experienced glassblower, Sam is also a clothing designer, avid fly fisherman, enthusiastic mushroom hunter, gardener, and outdoorsman. His sculptural work is highly influenced by his other interests, employing simple elements of design to distill the beauty of the natural forms that he encounters in his adventures in the dramatic landscape of the Pacific Northwest.

Kelly O'Dell

Kelly O'Dell was born in Seattle in 1973, raised in Hawai'i, and now lives in the Pacific Northwest. When she was very young, her artistic parents made their living using stained glass, furnace glass, and pressed flowers. While seeking her college education years later, Kelly discovered glass as her primary focus at the University of Hawai'i. The program offered her many opporutnities to study at Pilchuck Glass School, and she eventually became a member of the William Morris Winter Crew. Her work mainly explores themes of extinction, preservation, and human impact on the natural world.  She resides in Stanwood, WA with her husband Raven Skyriver and their 5 year-old son Wren.

Brian Pike

Brian Pike received his MFA from the Massachusetts College of Art in 1987 and his Masters of fine art from Alfred University in 1992. Not long after, He was a cofounder along with Robbie Miller and Wayne Harjula of the Bubba Mavis exhibition space. A gallery that hosted an opportunity for solo shows for local artists.  Brian is also a member of the Butter Eaters, a performance group, which was established in the 1999, a product of the close association of a group of Alfred University (NY) students and local artist intimates of Bubba Mavis. Brian was an instructor at the Toyama Institute of Glass in Toyama, Japan from 1998 to 2001. He currently resides on Whidbey Island, where his life and work exhibit reverence for the natural world that surrounds him.

Kait Rhoads

Kait, a NW resident since the mid nineties, uses traditional Italian glass techniques as a base to create sculpture, vessels and jewelry. She received her BFA from Rhode Island School of Design in 1993 and her MFA from Alfred University in 2001, when she was awarded a Fulbright grant to study sculpture in Murano, Venice.  Her collections include Seattle Art Museum, Tacoma Museum of Art, Carnegie Museum of Art, Corning Museum of Glass, Museum of Northwest Art, Palm Springs Art Museum, Racine Art Museum and the Shanghai Museum of Glass.

Amy Rueffert

Amy Rueffert has worked in glass since 1994. She earned her BFA from Massachusetts College of Art and her MFA at Mills College in Oakland where she studied with Ron Nagle. Her work is included in the collections of the Corning Museum of Glass, the Tacoma Museum of Glass, and The Glasmuseet Ebeloft in Denmark. Amy’s work has been recognized in New Glass Review (1995, 1998, 2006-09), and she was awarded a merit prize in the Elizabeth R. Rafael Founder’s Exhibition. Her work was selected for the 2007 International Exhibition of glass in Kanazawa, Japan and was also in a group exhibition titled “Flora” at the Glasmuseet Ebeltoft in Denmark in 2010.

Amy has taught at The Studio at The Corning Museum of Glass, Pilchuck Glass School, The Glass Lab at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Haystack Mountain School of Crafts. She ran the glass department at San Jose State University during the 2006-07, lectured at Illinois State University in Bloomington-Normal during 2008-09 and was a visiting scholar at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale during 2009-10.  She currently lectures in the School of Art and Design at the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana.

Jennifer Umphress

Jennifer Umphress' work often draws inspiration from her environment. Born and raised in California, she began working with glass in 2000 while living in Hawaii. Umphress now lives and works in Kingston, Washington, where the Pacific Ocean continues to influence her work. "Although my inspiration comes from the ocean, I aspire to capture the fluidity of nature in a simple contemporary form," says Umphress in her personal statement.

This exhibit is made possible in part by sponsorship from the Washington State Arts Commission.