After my first blog post about the Residency On Its Way to the Museum a commenter suggested that smart people are attracted to kiln-glass because of the technical challenges – because the method feeds the artistic soul and a hunger for problem solving at the same time.
Gloria Badiner easily fits my profile of “smart”. And from what I glimpsed – thanks to the very telling photos posted to the group’s Facebook page – those smarts sparked both awe and good humor from her fellow residents during her time in the Pilchuck-Professional-Artist-in-Residence session last Fall. (That photo caption above is not by me).
What appeals to me most about Badiner’s work is the quality that I don’t immediately expect to see in a former research scientist: a profoundly humane heart. The works in glass speak to topics that many of us – without being versed in the more complex scientific issues – can feel pretty passionate about (yes, I cried at the end of The Omnivore’s Dilemma).
Of course, I’m exposing my own lame prejudices in seeing Mengeles and Oppenheimers lurking in the shadows of research halls; I just don’t expect to find huge heaps of motherly values in the laboratory.
So maybe it’s because the roots of this former research scientist from Southwest Michigan are literally on the family farm that her concerns about issues like Food vs Fuel ring so close to home.
I had a chance to see some of the images that Badiner used for inspiration during her time in the Pilchuck residency. They tell a lot. Her short and eloquent bio tells more:
“I live on the edge of the prairie, where farmers talk in numbers like 17A and 19B for their soil types, where the change in temperature kicks a summer breeze into seventy mile an hour winds and the corn grows in neat rows for miles sending thermals upwards.”
“The first house my parents bought called a linear field of corn our nearest neighbor. It was the Midwest work ethic that propelled me forward as the first in my family to attend college, first as a respiratory therapist then on to undergraduate in Biology, Mathematics and Chemistry and finally pursuing a graduate degree in Bio-medical Sciences.”
“I loved the study of cells, their growth and differentiation, how the body makes new and repairs the broken. A chance encounter with cast glass while at a conference in Rhode Island led to the pursuit to learn everything I could about this material.”
“At first, glass seemed as complicated as water. However, after dissecting old texts from The Rakow Library and the new how-to books on kiln forming, the material seemed just like science, an experiment waiting to be done and with any luck reproducible as well. I am self-taught, but with a strong technical background and the practiced life as a scientist I find the work as an artist and the work as a researcher to be much the same. “
“The work [in the MoNA show] evolves from a week-long residency at Pilchuck. My subject matter in all honesty was chosen for its familiarity. During the trials of working out image and text on the residency pieces I found the familiarity of the image was innate within my being.”
Gloria Badiner is smart – as are all the residents whose works in the upcoming MoNA exhibition show the technical skill that makes kiln-glass so challenging. But finding images that are “innate within [one’s] being” is what makes this new work sing.
For more on Badiner’s studio, exhibition schedule and classes, click here.
To learn more about the Museum of Northwest Art and “Act Two: The Next Track”, go here: