Monday, July 15, 2013

Glass Secessionism

What is Glass Secessionism? Glass Secessionism is a movement started (on Facebook and at his school in Washington DC) by artist and educator Tim Tate.  I applaud the audacity of anyone who starts an art movement, regardless of what its all about!  Holy moly—after being a studio artist and a teacher, that anyone would have the energy to spare is admirable, to say the least.

Much of the gist of it is:
“My premise is that to succeed in glass in the 21st century, we have to secede from 20th Century founded Studio Glass. The Studio Glass model was firmly in place. It was time to integrate into the Fine Art World. What we needed was a bridge between these two worlds, to assist in this transition which was coming so very quickly.”
“However, we believe that great art should be driven primarily by artistic vision, and technique should facilitate the vision. For too long, technique has driven the majority of studio glass. As Secessionists we do not seek to isolate ourselves from other artists working in glass, but to enhance the field as a whole.”

OK!!! Back to me! The horrifying has happened and I have a public-ish platform for my opinion and, amazingly, some people even take me seriously.  Since I am mentioned in the Glass Secessionism manifesto and am an active participant on the movement’s Facebook page, I thought, perhaps, I should say something about it…so here we go…
(DISCLAIMER!  I count Tim Tate amongst my dear friends and am a fan of his artwork.)

My response:
I have some issues, surprise, surprise!
(Some are petty gripes with the way the history is delineated.  It was my experience that this dialectic between conceptualism and technique has been there a lot longer than since the early aughts.  But that's really a detail. Why not claim Duchamp's "The Bride Stripped Bare By Her Bachelors, Even" as the first Seecessionist piece?  If for no other reason than he only claimed it was finished when the darned thing broke.)

I am as fed up as the next guy/gal with stoooopid glass objects. But I refuse to only disparage the ones that are insufferably idiotic because they are “too techniquey” any more than the ones that are guilty of lame-ass conceptualizing.  Why, oh why do we have to go there all the time?  There being the place where production is severed from inspiration.

The manifesto expressly states: “It [Glass Secessionism] tends to start with an idea or concept rather than perfecting or exploring a technique.”  Uh oh!  I have a big, big problem with this. My main issue with the Glass Secessionism manifesto is it’s prioritizing of narrative and conceptuality above technique.  In my utopia, any system that equally favors... NO!  adamantly refuses to even recognize a space between conception and labor is the very cure for any number of art related ills.

As I said in my skill piece (and I increasingly find this trend to be a major theme in my thinking about what ails us today)...:
“The whole sequestering of concept from process in art lines up on mind/body split lines, us versus them lines and good versus bad lines—as do, ultimately, all issues that would divide art from craft. Anything that dissociates inspiration from process or soul and material will be reflected in Art versus Craft.   Skill is one end in the learning curve of process. It has little to offer as a sole criterion by which to base or assess an art experience and I can see why artists, theorists, critics etc. would begrudge so-called art works that are of this ilk. Skill for its own sake is as bereft as the notion of bad technique justifying or ensuring the primacy of concept. It must be attached to some deeper meaning for an artwork to resonate deeply.  What should be judged in an artwork is how credible and inevitable the interface between matter and spirit, be that a rude and crude modality or precise and refined, regardless of whether it is related to utilitarian function or cerebral contemplation.”

If Glass Secessionism is to make good on the following bullet point: “There are a number of facets of the glass world I purposefully seceded from: [one being] The continual tedious discussion of the faulty “art vs craft” binary”; then it is essential that it not perpetuate that binary by conceding the notion that, in an artwork, concept is something that exists outside of technique.   For that same reason, I think the movement should stop harping on the differences between vessels and sculpture.

A secondary issue is the idea of “seceding”.  Maybe I spent too much time reading about the American Civil War…but…yikes!
I’m for integration and for preserving the union but should that not be possible, I far prefer the following scenario:  in my utopia, the forms formerly known as “Painting” and “Sculpture” will soon be banging at the gate of Craft begging for entrance.  At that time, we should do our best to graciously admit them to our wonderful, wonderful world with malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the art world’s wounds


Tim tate said...

Tim Tate Judith.....thank you for that incredible ! You come from the rarified atmosphere as one of the ONLY glass artist on earth to show in the Whitney biennial.......One of the ONLY stained glass artist on earth to have made the crossover to the fine art world. That is exactly what I am praying will change.
a few seconds ago · Like

Judith Schaechter said...

And I never once have apologized for being a technique geek!

Thanks, Tim!
I hope it changes too!

Tim Tate said... is my comment. Thanks Judith for your thoughtful response. I love the way your mind works, and always have! The thought of a debate with you is both frightening and delicious!

Let me take your points one by one:

You say, “Why not claim Duchamp's "The Bride Stripped Bare By Her Bachelors, Even" as the first Seecessionist piece? If for no other reason than he only claimed it was finished when the darned thing broke.”

I do not believe and have never stated that Glass Secessionism sprouted from nothing. I have always suggested that there were always a few great examples throughout the history of studio glass (or before….as you point out Duchamp…I would have gone for Cornell’s early glass domes). I am merely pointing out that the majority of work being produced at this time by younger artists in particular leans much more towards secessionism than towards studio glass.

Next you say, “I refuse to only disparage the ones that are insufferably idiotic because they are “too techniquey” and more than the ones that are guilty of lame-ass conceptualizing.” This is a frequent area of misinterpretation of secessionism. There is no disparagey meant towards any of the greats of Studio Glass…..I grew up with them. I admire and respect their work. I just believe the pendulum is shifting with regard to younger artists. You and I are of the same opinion as to the importance of skills, yet many younger artists are not….or, more typically, they master exactly enough technique to complete their current idea. When I was learning…..the approach was almost an apprentice approach. Master your medium, then find your voice. That is not always as true today. I’m not saying it is dead….just not as true as it once was.

I would also say that you, Judith Schaechter come from one of the highest peaks in our glass world. An artist who bridges so many worlds. So many glass ceilings you have broken through. You are the ONLY glass artist to be in the Whitney Bienniel, the ONLY glass artist to take stained glass into the Fine Art world and the ONLY glass artist to grace the cover of the New Yorker.

That is what the Studio Glass movement has produced after 50 years.….One. Admittedly….it accomplished so much in other arenas, but in those 3… are it. You are the single artist to achieve these feats. I believe that with the 21st century’s focus on secessionist work, there will be many more to follow in the path you yourself have set forth. A pioneer and ground breaker. Maybe my way will allow others to follow.

Judith Schaechter said...

"There is no disparagey meant towards any of the greats of Studio Glass…..I grew up with them."
No worries!
In no way was that what I intended to point out. Of course, the greats were Great: and thus were probably examples of integration of form, function and concept.

I shall attempt to be clearer:
My concern is not that anyone is disrespecting their elders but a concern that, in eagerness to proclaim the ascendency of narrative and conceptuality we might throw out the baby with the bathwater. Glass Seccessionism is privileging narrative and concept above technique. That's my issue.

And as I said, the Duchamp reference was rather niggling.

As for my success, (blushing), I am truly pleased to be a "crossover" artist. I hope that it is observed that I did so without apologizing for glass as a material, a set of techniques and a proud historical context. I am an unabashed technique geek.

Tim Tate said...

When we at glass secessionism talk about standing on the shoulders of are certyainly one! someone had to be the first....I'm glad it was you! :)

Judith Schaechter said...

Thanks, Tim, I am officially hiring you as my press agent!

Hey I want to add something and that is I don't think rebelling against your elders, (great or less great) is such a bad thing--nay, 'tis pretty much a good and important thing.

Marc Petrovic said...

I think the secessionist thing underestimates the natural progression of work and advancing technologies... We only recently were given the gifts of quality adhesives, compatible glasses, high quality equipment and dare I say video capabilities. These are the difference makers in the work being made. I went to school looking up to Paul Marioni, Bob Carlson, Jack Wax, Susan Stinsmuellen, Therman Statom, Michael Scheiner... The list really is extensive of non Venetian vessel makers that made work in the early days.
What is the success of the secessionists to be anyway? Money? Sales? Notoriety?

Tim Tate said...

I'm not sure there is an ultimate goal. Its more of a statement to where glass is and may be going. I agree there were artists who made amazing works before us. We stand on the shoulders of giants. And many of you fought hard to get work "based in ideas" (a quote from a class of yours) accepted into the glass world and into the fine art world. won. Now there are far more artists working in conceptually derived and narrative work than ever before! A much higher percentage that the 20th century. All that you hoped would come to pass has come to pass. We may not like our children when they are grown.....but they are nonetheless our children. Best to just be a proud parent.

Marc Petrovic said...

I don't dislike the children. I just maintain that there has always been a portion of the glass world that works this way. That percentage may have grown, but it should also be noted that there are vastly more people working with glass today. It is still a percentage. I still don't see the need to secede from anything. I have always worked this way. I was taught to work this way, and I graduated in 1991.
I want to also point out what seems to be an obvious point of workshopIs. tried to stress content along with craft when I taught workshops at Penland and Corning, and Haystack. Many students were open to this, but many wanted to learn how to blow or sculpt glass better. I realized that it was my agenda, not that of the schools necessarily. I was after all teaching at The Penland School of Crafts not The Penland School of Art.

Tim Tate said...

The beauty of that is that no one is making you or asking anyone to secede. Everyone is only responsible for themselves. Stay firmly in Studio Glass....all paths are viable. You keep making the point that others were there in the 20th century....a point unrefuted by secessionism. Glass secessionism does not toll the end of Studio merely enhances it. There seems to be such a huge insecurity that Studio Glass is threatened. And like it or not....this is your frankenstein. your agenda was heard. :)

Marc Petrovic said...

How is it that I am the root of this path and still stuck firmly in studio glass at the same time? What do secessionist do that I haven't been doing for 22 years?

Tim Tate said...

as I've said many times.....secessionism didnt spring out of a rock. it had proponents from Duchamp on. You are the only one saying it. It seems to be your issue. I do believe that Secessionist will do one thing very differently. We will embrace the future and acknowledge those artists who are trying to further the field. Now that would be a huge difference! :)

Marc Petrovic said...

Your right Tim, I have been teaching and working and trying to be innovative for twenty two years all in an effort to stagnate and kill any potential the glass world has before it.(sarcastic font)

Just because I disagree with you about the need for labels and terms to define something new, that has in my opinion, existed all along, does not mean I don't want to support new and innovative artists trying to do exactly what I have been trying to do.

I have nothing to secede from because I have worked this way my whole career, I have always sought craft and content.

Tim Tate said...

lord knows i completely agree with you. i have ascribed to you the position of one of the founders of this, whether intentional or not. your world centered around sculpture because you did.....but that doesnt mean the majority of glass artists did....despite the ones you can name.

you are rare today......but even rarer 22 years ago.

Steven Durow said...

It seems to me to be more of a chicken and egg problem. Which comes first, the content (Tim I resist your term "narrative" because that's only one way in which content can manifest itself) -so which comes first, content or technique? I personally don't feel that good art can be badly made, but at the same time, something that's very well-made can be completely devoid of meaning.
Someone mentioned RISD and I don't want to over emphasize this point because Im basing this on one show I saw in 1998, but that exhibition showed a lot of graduate and undergraduate work. Some of it was conceptionaly very interesting but looked like it was thrown together the night before the exhibit and then there was some very well made things that were utterly uninteresting. I can't think of one piece in the exhibit that I saw that was both. My point is I think both issues need to be addressed with equal fervor. Why not make something interesting, and make it well?
Throughout this whole discussion I'm constantly reminded of a quote by David Smith. When people asked him about this wonderful technique that he had, he looked at them confused and said "technique is what other people call it". He said that an artist has an idea- a place that he wants to get to -and there's no road leading them there so they have to forge their own path. And then when they look back on the road they've carved for themselves people say to them "what a wonderful technique you have".
Some of these " Giants" we are talking about forged their own path but then a whole lot of people followed them instead of forging a path for themselves- or even just recycled their one idea ad infinitum. What is art to one generation is necessarily derivative to the next.

The glass world loves to throw around the quote "technique is cheap", but then willingly pay the low low price of years and years of hard work for just that! A friend of mine told me he spent YEARS learning to make a reticello then was depressed because all he had to show for his time and hard work was a bunch of lines with tiny bubbles in them. What's the POINT???

At a job interview I had one of the students asked me point blank after my slide lecture if I was a glass artist or a sculptor. I ask them what the difference was and didn't get the job. I also have a lot of people telling me "we are a blowing school" or "we are a casting school". If we are really centered on ideas now, then why do these distinctions exist and why are people so adamantly defending their territory? Like Tim I've had my work rejected from glass galleries because it's not glassy enough. I've had my work rejected from sculpture galleries because it contains glass. I've pretty much given up and gone to large-scale outdoor sculpture where people outside of both worlds make the decisions and -more apropos to the root of this problem in my view, there is not a financial incentive to accept or reject work.

Judith Schaechter said...

Thank you all so much for your insightful and well considered comments.
Truly appreciated!!!

I want to state for the record,that I am NOT the first stained glass or glass artist to be a crossover artist. Far from it!
As Marc points out Paul Marioni, Bob Carlson, Jack Wax, Susan Stinsmuehlen, Therman Statom, Michael Scheiner amongst other did it too. Susan, Paul and Richard Posner all worked in stained glass.

And of course there's big names who we don't even see in the glass world like Nicolas African and Christopher Wilmarth.

david willis said...

"A secondary issue is the idea of “seceding”"

Care to flesh this out at all Judith? I have some issues here as well, from language to premise. Not trying to pick at scabs, but it seems relevant to this critique.

Also. in defense of Toots Zynsky, I think that anyone who is doing their thing and not hurting anyone, and it's working for them, is fine with me. Van Gogh is remembered mostly for his paintings of nature, Lichtenstein for comics, Warhol for silkscreens, Judith you use stained glass... We all choose our processes and techniques, maybe these can be seen as vehicles for expression rather than the expression itself? I'm not saying I don't understand your example here Tim, I just think Ms. Zynsky might look at it differently and/or might not appreciate being singled out. Can we ask her?

This kind of brings us back to the g.s. premise of proportions of artists whose work was all about technique. There have been many examples cited of artists working from concept and very few examples of those firmly in the "neo-venetian" tradition. I'm just not sure about "Now there are far more artists working in conceptually derived and narrative work than ever before! A much higher percentage that the 20th century." It would be great to see some evidence of this as it seems fundamental to g.s.

My last point is that I find it a bit early to generalize on "the 21st century’s focus".

This is an interesting conversation and I appreciate you bringing it to the table Tim. I'm not trying to be "disapragey" towards you here, nor do I have an interest stepping on your game. I'm just contributing my views and asking questions.

Tim Tate said...

Dont worry David....i didnt find you "disapragey" at all. Thank you so much for pointing out my spelling error. I'm sure there are more if you look closely.

Many people disagree with the way I saw glass history, many do not. I believe it comes down to how you came into the glass world and how you learned to interpret it. I went into great detail to show how I came to that path. Other paths, equally viable, were there for other artists.

As far as Toots, its always difficult to use someone as an example, regardless of the fact that I said I admire her work (which I see was forgotten). I used her mainly because when she spoke a few months ago at the Renwick, she stated that she saw nothing interesting happening in glass these days. Please tell her that I used her for my example. If she is upset with me about it, she can certainly contact me. It always seems that the old guard can cast as many disparaging comments towards new artists they want, but god forbid anyone say anything bad toward them. (not that anything I said was bad or inaccurate).

I definitely want to completely agree with you on one major point.....its way too early to completely say what 20th century glass will evolve into....for anyone. Time (not Tim) will tell! :)

Anonymous said...

Hmmm, as Frank Zappa told an audience, "Everyone in this room is wearing a uniform--and don't kid yourself."

The worry here is that while GS may be understood by those who created it, the GS label will quickly be used by those who are too much in a hurry to understand an artist or group of artists. Probably the Studio label is less harmful because it is now so broad that it can't constrict.

But to make the GS school a school, do you have to expel some students, or have other drop out?

If GS helps get an artist or a group of artists a more searching look -- that's good. ... but...

Anyway, I knew someone who'd show up at car crashes with a whisk broom and dust pan... she'd furiously sweep up the busted safety glass and coat high heel shoes and other such with the fragments.

Suddenly, I am trying to be sure if she belongs to the GS or not.

--mcget / philadelphia

Ralph Johnson said...

wow--hugely interesting discussion. I have collected over 150 "studio glass" pieces in last 2 years.....many,if not most, by notable and/or quasi-famous makers. My self imposed parameter was actually that it be a vessel-of any sort- for inclusion. Then let the artist show me their concept, idiom, mantra, whatever via that "canvas"dictum.
I have 3 early Brent Kee Young pieces along this (now restrictive?) boundary, but love them....and curiously, do not find his current boro-sil glass constructs interesting beyond their simple form-like allusions of basic shapes? and wow, what $$ they sell for... there's technique driving success along dollar lines....less complexity than earlier, meaty blown glass works? WHAAAAT?

Ralph Johnson said...

my apologies....i am old art major--studied with Robert Russin, Ted Waddell, John Van Alstine, Tom Hardy (Portland, OR) , David Reif, et have "canon hysteria" as to formal form, content, scale, chroma.......all those delineated boundaries. Also, hung around Jack McClendon-once super wheel potter-who beat me up almost weekly about functional pottery vs. "arty" efforts.....THAT old secessionary battle of that material medium........thus i cast my "vessel" requirement-although i broke that rule several times because i was moved to have a piece anyway--NOW due to content-of all things!!