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Contemporary Glass Art Rob Stern


A “Call to Artist” Exhibit at Imagine Museum in St Petersburg, Florida

Contemporary Glass Art Big Blue by LouAnn wuktitsch
Visitors enjoying “Reflective Reality” by Claudia Henao

In late 2021, Imagine Museum hosted a Florida “call to artists” with the theme “Florida: In Transformation”. We invited contemporary glass artists to submit local artworks that communicated their narrative or influences taken from the state that only glass and its profound qualities can capture. We focused on the state of Florida to represent the artists working with this transparent material in celebration of the United Nations 2022 designation as the “International Year of Glass.”

Glass has fueled inspiration, innovation, and invention over hundreds of years and is said to be “the material of mankind.” From vessels to prisms to eyeglasses, telescopes, and our 21st-century telecommunication platform and devices, glass continues to transform, inspire and uplift all humankind.

Diversity of Artists and Expression

We received over 100 entries and displayed 49 artworks representing 39 artists. My first impression was the diversity of artists and expression communicated throughout the entries. Many works demonstrated the beauty of the Florida flora and fauna for which this state is known. Other works portrayed ideas through bright colors, reflected light, and textured surfaces conjuring up a Florida palette of color that emulates the experience of living in this tropical, dewy, white light environment. Other artists showcased narrative themes that allow the viewer to delve deeper into what the artist communicates with their images and forms.

I particularly enjoyed the varying approaches of technique, especially the flame work or torch work demonstrated in this exhibit. One standout artist was our second-place winner, LouAnn Wuktitsch from Fort Myers, with her hanging piece entitled “Big Blue.” The big exclamation point extended from the ceiling, using small, individual squares of blue glass tied onto multiple strings. They produced the dimensional volume that conveys an urgency to protect our “blue” environment in Florida as climate and other issues impact the state. Just opposite “Big Blue” was Wuktitsch’s hanging question mark using the same process. It begged the question, “Why Don’t You Think Like I Do?” addressing the division of thought in Florida. Both pieces command space and individual inquiry for interpretation.

Another flame artist of note in this exhibit is Kellie Sylvester from Pensacola. Her dimensional sculptural forms capture your imagination by their narrative titles. It was a delightful experience to view the pieces and, with a secondary hint from the title, appreciate how those thoughts became the reality of the organic forms.

The third-place winner for this exhibit was Luisa Mesa from Homestead, FL. The intimacy of her hand-drawn illustrations intertwined with family photos shares her deep investigation into the history, legacy, and meaning of connection. Her small delicate pieces take you into a world of exploration of what has gone before and what remains as we continue to confront our past histories with our 21st-century eyes.

Blown Away by Contemporary Glass Artist Rob Stern

Our first-place winner, Rob Stern, is a fixture of contemporary glass art in Florida and resides in Miami Beach. He was recognized early on as a top contender in the 2022 Netflix series “Blown Away.” The work he submitted for “Florida: In Transformation” continues to earn him those high marks.

His first-place win was an installation called “Windstars,” (see on the left) which has clear glass, star-shaped sculptures hung from the ceiling. This installation has the capacity through LED lighting to change colors as seen fit for the room or environment.

Nevertheless, on equal footing with this piece, the judge, Larry Sibrack, President of the Art Alliance for Contemporary Glass, also found his three-piece installation entitled “Palm Fronds” to be of special note for the exhibit. The creativity to take a palm frond and use it as a shell covering for beautifully blown glass forms demonstrates a personal connection to Florida and our day-to-day existence with the environment.

Others that deserve a shout-out are the St. Petersburg artists that live and work on the “Glass Coast,” who continue to bring attention to Florida and the exceptional work in glass being executed here. That would be Chuck Boux, Sam Brewster, Trish Duggan, Duncan McClellan, and Marlene Rose, whose artworks can be found in many collections in Southwest Florida.

I could continue with the maturation of works by Rick Eggert, Dan Alexander, and Christian Zvonik, who continue to surprise and amaze with each new series they produce. I also appreciate the younger, up-and-coming artists who submitted original, inventive works and communicated new energy and a fresh approach to glass sculpture.

When determining the title, “Florida in Transformation”, I had no idea how artists would interpret this theme. I was aware of artists working with glass on the Gulf side of Florida but was delighted to see that creativity across the state. After this experience, I suggest the state of Florida has evolved into a place where contemporary glass art is created, exhibited, and collected. Glass as a material for artistic expression continues to thrive and transform how we regard the material and the artists who live and create in our Sunshine State.

I invite you to plan your visit to our glass museum and enjoy this and other transformative exhibits on display at Imagine Museum.

Continue to imagine,

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