Internationally renowned glass artist Lino Tagliapietra returns
June 10, 2010 By Marla Sweitzer
glass artist in the world, was on campus last week,
showing audiences how he creates his masterpieces.
This was Tagliapietra's fifth visit to Centre. He continues to
return, he says, because of his friendship with Stephen
Powell, Centre professor of art and a renowned glass artist
The music of Motown was playing in the heat of Centre College’s glass studio as Lino Tagliapietra takes a second to wipe off the perspiration on his forehead. He has been working for nearly four hours, creating more than 10 saturno pieces. Lunch is an hour late, but nobody—neither the crowd that observes from the bleachers nor the members of Lino’s glassblowing team—seems to mind. One cannot really argue with an individual who is widely regarded as the greatest glass artist in the world.
Tagliapietra was been on campus from Monday, June 7, through Friday, June 11, sharing his legendary skill and unique vision with the Centre and international glass community. His fifth visit to Centre’s campus was coordinated as part of the Glass Art Society’s 40th Annual Conference, a three-day event that began last week in Louisville.
At 75 years old, Tagliapietra creates most of his work in Seattle four months out of the year, making a visit to a private liberal arts school in the middle of Kentucky a rare opportunity.
“It’s pretty unique that there's no other college or university in America that has this kind of relationship with Lino,” says Marc Walder, ’08 and 09-10 graduate assistant to the art department.
This year also marks the 25th anniversary of the Centre glass program and the 10th anniversary of Tagliapietra’s connection with the College.
The pull of Centre’s glass facility, as well as the allure of Kentucky, keeps bringing Tagliapietra back to Danville. Yet it is really “because of the friendship, the relationship with Steve [Powell],” Tagliapietra says. “I like the facility, but overall [it is] the human relationship.”
The connection between Tagliapietra and Powell, H.W. Stodghill Jr. and Adele H. Stodghill Professor of Art at Centre, began when the two exhibited together in 1996. Powell invited Tagliapietra to visit Kentucky in 2000, when he served as Humana Distinguished Professor. Tagliapietra also received an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters in 2004 and visited the campus in 2006 and 2008 for residencies where his mastery was on display.
“My enthusiasm, respect and admiration for Lino filters through me to the students,” says Stephen Powell, H.W. Stodghill Jr. and Adele H. Stodghill Professor of Art.
During the glassblowing sessions, Powell could be seen huddled behind Lino, carefully arranging jacks, tweezers, paddles and other tools of the glassblower’s trade so that the glass master can readily sculpt the glass.
During Tuesday’s and Wednesday’s glassblowing sessions, Tagliapietra solely created saturno pieces. Tagliapietra, who has always been drawn to the shape of Saturn’s outer ring, first created the shape in 1972. “This kind of shaping never happened before,” Tagliapietra says.
The whole process of creating the saturnos ran smoothly, not unlike that of a factory in which glass bottles are made. For anyone not familiar with glassblowing, the finesse in which Tagliapietra’s team assembles one of Saturn shaped pieces appears effortless.
“Lino makes it seem so simple,” Jacqueline Beck ’10, says. “He makes the idea of mass production look easy. In class, trying to make two identical cups feels completely impossible, whereas he can make 40 identical saturnos.”
The individual pieces created on Centre’s campus will be shipped to Seattle, coldworked and fixed with lighting and metal before they are put on display as a chandelier instillation in Miami in December.
Members of Tagliapietra’s’s team play an invaluable role in the creation of a piece—from preparing the color for lip wraps, blowing out a piece or opening the door of a glory hole, where the glass pieces are reheated. Members of his glassblowing team include glass artists Nancy Callan, David Walters and John Kiley. Centre graduate D.H. McNabb ’02, who is currently a graduate student at Rhode Island School of Design and worked on Tagliapietra’s team in the past, also returned to assist the team this week.
Centre students also helped out behind the scenes, photographing and recording the event, as well as selling t-shirts. Waldner and Frank DePreist ’10 assisted in transferring the piece to the annealer, where the glass is cooled.
“Even though catching the piece and putting it into the annealer isn’t very hard, it’s important,” says DePriest. “It’s cool to be a part of this. Not very many people get to work with someone who’s the best at something.”
As part of the Glass Art Society’s Conference, Tagliapietra also led a demonstration in the University of Louisville studio on Saturday morning, with Powell following in that afternoon.
“It’s pretty inspiring to see someone 75 years old making some of the most all-inspiring work,” Walder says.