6/1/06

Transparent Society



Seems like just yesterday I was writing about glass houses and privacy. Well, maybe just last weekend! Now the President has announced that we live in a "transparent society". Maybe there's no point to either drapes or vertical blinds in the impending condo-pocalypse.

My day began with transparent glass, and will probably end the same way. No, I haven't been out on the street picking up the shards of broken auto windshields for mosaics. Haven't done that since my oldest finished his mosaic of the Alamo for middle school Texas History class ten years ago.

The right way to begin a day is with a glass of fresh-squeezed orange juice at the Frontier Restaurant in Albuquerque, but that wasn't the start for this day. I was actually reading about Dale Chihuly suing two former glass-blowers from his studio. He accuses them of imitating his glass designs inspired by the sea. Timothy Egan, writing for the New York Times, reports:

The glass blowers say that Mr. Chihuly is trying to control entire forms, shapes and colors and that his brand does not extend to ancient and evolving techniques derived from the natural world... Andrew Page, editor of Glass: The Urban Glass Art Quarterly, which is published in New York, said that Mr. Chihuly deserved a high place in the pantheon of glass artists, but that the suit could hurt his reputation by igniting countercharges and opening a window into how a celebrity artist works on a mass scale. "I think Dale Chihuly is a pure original," Mr. Page said. "He has a tremendous sense of color and composition. And he has done a tremendous amount for the field. But this lawsuit may have been the worst thing he could have done."

Egan reports that Chihuly, Inc. has ninety-three employees, and that Dale Chihuly has not actually blown glass himself for twenty-seven years. "Still, Mr. Chihuly said, he works with sketches, faxes and through exhortation. Nothing with his name on it ever came from anyone but himself, he said." I don't know how many employees another famous glass artist had. Louis Comfort Tiffany is the subject of the current exhibition at the Dallas Museum of Art.

Together with his studios of artists, glassmakers, stonemasons, mosaicists, modelers, metalworkers, wood-carvers, potters, and textileworkers, Tiffany heralded in America the notion of continuity of design, orchestrating pattern, texture, color, and light to produce a single aesthetic expression.

The Tiffany exhibit is much more varied than I expected. The DMA has done a nice job of arranging it with lots of room for visitors to move around the display cases. Changed viewpoints let light reveal new aspects of each piece. It didn't take long for me to overcome my notion of Tiffany as lamps over pool tables in rec rooms of the Seventies. I was particularly impressed with the natural forms in the glass and ceramic pieces--lily pad, milkweed pod, morning glory, pansies, ferns, shells, and seaweed. Tiffany was combining a reverence, or at least an appreciation, of the natural world with numerous chemical processes to create his signature effects. I wouldn't want to sit on the chairs he designed, but his fireplace screens and stair balustrades are very groovy.



Many of my favorites in the Tiffany show were inspired by the sea. The same sea that inspired Chihuly. Nature's influences are beyond counting. We artists must bring our own ideas and skills to a project. I am fond of the Chihuly works at the DMA and at the Joslyn in Omaha even though I know they were created by a studio of craftspersons. A Metropolitan Museum online source is useful for learning about Louis Comfort Tiffany:

Tiffany combined his talents as a colorist, naturalist, and designer with the technology that he had developed for his windows to produce blown glass with surfaces, hues, and forms that were totally new. After manipulating the varicolored glass, the final form was often fumed with metallic oxides to achieve rainbow iridescence.

I get bogged down wondering if Jacqueline du Pre performing Elgar's composition is an artist interpreting an artist, or the musical equivalent of a glass-blower working from sketches, faxes and exhortations. Is the actor an artist, or only the playwright's gaffer?

Thank heaven and His Vader Darthness Dick Cheney that real life is such a dewy iridescent spectrum. Bush's label, "transparent society", doesn't refer to the Saran Wrap over the rainbow marshmallow Jello salad at a church social. "Transparent Society" refers to the choice between privacy and freedom created by new technology. The NSA wants to know if you happen to call Domino's for a sausage/green pepper/black olive. Bushie's lips were moving today, so it's a safe bet varicolored glass, smoke, and mirrors were used to create a utopian over-the-rainbow bubble over our critical thinking skills. I'm sure this administration will see a clear explanation for Haditha:

President Bush reiterated his pledge today that the results of the inquiries would be disclosed. "One of the things that happens in a transparent society like ours is that there will be a full a complete investigation," he said. "The world will see the full and complete investigation."

Ah, yes. That would be opening a window into how a celebrity con artist works on a mass scale.

1 comment:

Beerli said...

I feel a transparent society is something to avoid...like everyone is empty and see-through. I love the images on this post. Really soothing ...but classy art work. Enjoyed this post immensely.

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