Ann Gardner (American, b. 1947)
United States, Seattle, Washington, 2004
Glass tiles, concrete, composite material, steel, rope
Diam: 196.1 cm, D: 15.2 cm
2011.4.70, the 26th Rakow Commission
Through subtle color gradations and modeling with reflection and shadow, Ann Gardner’s sculptures, covered in shimmering glass tiles, continuously transform space in the changing light from dawn to dusk and from summer to fall. Seemingly at one with the surrounding architecture, the transitions appear natural, created by small individually cut, colored glass tiles backed with metal foil, which are pressed into curved shapes that reflect light in a dramatic, yet restrained, way. Despite the fact that her sculptures can be quite large (one piece is composed of 12-foot-long pendants dangling 100 feet in the air) Gardner describes her work as quiet and simple.
Born in Eugene, Oregon, Gardner studied painting, ceramics, and %%drawing%% at the University of Oregon and at Portland State University before moving to Seattle in 1979. She initially created hand-painted ceramic tile and shard mosaics, but she soon became acquainted with artists working in glass, and she was invited to Pilchuck Glass School in Stanwood, Washington, as an artist-in-residence.
“One of the first things I did when I went to Pilchuck was to blow glass into clay molds,” says Gardner. “My impulse was to be able to affect the glass by touching it, which is what you do with clay. Clay is really about your hands, and your hands showing up in that material—and glass is not.” Some of her first glass castings were blown into cages lined with clay, in an effort to capture that tangible connection to the material.
Gardner considers that time in her life as “pretty influential, not just because of the material, but because of the atmosphere at Pilchuck. Your vision widens because you see so much that’s going on.” It was during her residency there that she experimented with patterning in glass pieces assembled from found and made objects, and she began to use glass mosaic as a skin over sculptural forms.
Gardner is the first %%mosaic%% artist to be awarded a Rakow Commission. “Ann’s method of integrating %%mosaic%% into sculptural forms is unique,” says Tina Oldknow, curator of modern glass at the Museum. “I think her combination of minimal shape and decorative surface is very appealing.” Oldknow chose Gardner as this year’s artist because of her ability to take the craft of glass %%mosaic%% beyond the two-dimensional, noting that her works make use of reflected light and shadow to create volume. Says Gardner, “Light and shadow are more and more important to me in subtle ways. Glass is something that transmits light. There is no other material like that.”
For the Rakow Commission, Gardner will be presenting Five Pods to the Museum. Almost seven feet in diameter, the sculpture is a universal symbol, a circle. Whether or not that represents time, says Gardner, is up to the viewer. “My hope is that the work transcends periods; that the idea of it would stay alive as time moved on.” In this piece, as in in most of her work, Gardner strives for simplicity. Only one color of glass was used in Five Pods, yet the convex forms create multi-tonal reflections.
“I am so happy that Corning is acquiring this sculpture,” says Gardner. “It’s one of my favorite pieces, and it has such a quiet presence.”