Once upon a time 140 innocents – the number fluctuates with a revolving series of escapes and abductions – were kidnapped and held hostage in the fiery dungeon of a phantasmagorical glass factory on the outskirts of the town of Portland, Oregon on the West Coast of the United States.
Once a year, every year, the cleverest of the captives break free of their 9-5 shackles and in an exercise unparalleled in the history of shape-shifting, turn from furnace builders, melters, quality control technicians, programmers, salespeople and other slaves to the 40-hour week, into Artists.
Although some have questioned how life as an Artist is preferable to the torment of office or factory existence, each year the Call of the Plinth draws the hardiest of the band to the stirring ritual known as Working Glass.
Designed to mimic Life in the Gallery Lane, the requisite props to the annual ceremony include plastic-cupped Two-Buck Chuck Chardonnay, Ritz crackers, and hours of good natured chatter, punctuated by cries of small babes burbing themselves awake in parental arms.
At its core,the annual rite involves not only the conjuring of Art from scraps of precious vitreous detritus but also the curiously flagellant exercise of Admission.
Akin to the dreaded Artist Statement, these Admissions (we suspect some are false, designed to mislead Management and the hopelessly naïve – occasionally indistinguishable from one another) are documented in small placards on the walls where the participants confess to all manner of past lives.
What did you do before coming to Bullseye?
…fish cannery worker in Alaska…
…crew member on a 110 foot wooden topsail schooner
…legal secretary (criminal defense litigation)…
…blew glass for Dale Chihuly….
Among the most cynical, the practice of shape-shifting may manifest as Fashion Statement. The Artist as Star. Or is it Jester? Ambiguity is always a good strategy in the Art Game.
In past years many of the detainees bent to the bone-chilling custom of writing the Artist Statement. Recently only the veterans of even more horrific wars (those fought in the worse-than-any-factory Halls of Academe) have the stamina for such indignities. So, the evidence of the BFA survivors, like poignant combat medals, punctuate the occasional wall Admissions:
…. function and beauty in balance through biological patterns, radial symmetry, and careful use of volume and palette.
…the fragmentation of information and the boundaries of communication…a glimpse at the margins of comprehension.
But in the end, however strategized, however played out, the Great Escape is cause to celebrate. And so, arrives the Hour of the Awards.
And, as in all the years before, The President (in fact, the oldest Inmate of all) stands before his gallant gamers and – because he does truly adore this ceremony above all others in his year – bestows the Prizes that the Kidnapped have voted upon.
First Prize for Newcomer in 2010 goes to Julie Kumar, a new member of the R&E Team, for a truly remarkable exposition of glass stress…Filter…a piece about “…revealing something physically apparent that is invisible to the unaided eye.”
It’s a (IMO brilliant) diptych that when viewed through polarizing lenses captures the fusion of art and technology that sits deep in the catechism of the Glass Cult.
First Prize in the Functional category goes to melter Evan Louwenaar for a pair of bowls that capture the essence of his job: “Sand & Flux & Chemicals & Pressure & Agitation & Time & Sweat = Fusible Bullseye Glass.” Pictured above, one of two, titled Primordial Spill.
Furnace Builder Anton Hauptman, a regular on this particular Red Carpet, walked away with the First Prize Non-functional for a technical marvel of frit and sheet glass that caught the energy, spirit and magic of the recurring moment that is the game and life of Working Glass.
Everything That Rises Must Converge - methods, materials, lyrics (Shriekback from Oil and Gold) into “…blue blue blue…A color and a surge”.
At the end, it seemed inevitable (to me at least) that Leader Dan would select for the President’s Prize, a glowing cube of red-hot imagery by Tekta Trimmer Carl Hand titled T-15.
Made of 6mm Tekta sheets and sitting on a base of recycled furnace block, T-15 tells one chapter in the story of a remarkable little factory held together by an ingenious team of people who each year share another side of themselves through glass, words and the wizardry of Working Glass.
All joking aside, it’s these people who, whatever shape they choose to take, make our mutual captivity in the working world, not just tolerable but worthy of celebration every day of the year. Thank you.