The Scientist in the Studio | Bullseye Glass Co. | Bullseye Glass Co

The Scientist in the Studio

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 demonstrating photos of the nuclear reactor she built in her basement.

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.”

"Where did all the corn go?"

“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. “

"Altar: Food for Thought"

“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.”

"Tablet - Food or Fuel" 10" x 81" x .5"

"Offering - Eat Your Words" 13 x 15" x 3"

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:

6 Responses to The Scientist in the Studio

  1. Thinking about your opening comment – As scientists we take an idea and distill it to its essence, dissecting intent and emotion away from basic questions, meticulously doing our research. As artists we take an idea and have the wonderful luxury of creating, filling space with sound, vision or object, using intent and emotion. Both of these paths can be technically challenging. I love science, I love glass, I have found glass art to be science with heart.
    Gloria Badiner

  2. Kim Brill says:

    At Pilchuck Gloria talked about becoming fascinated by glass at a gallery and with true scientific spirit, she went home and MADE her own glass. When every person’s jaw dropped, she looked around and said, “What? You’ve never done that?”

  3. Lani says:

    Kim, That is So funny – thanks for sharing!

    Gloria, wanna buy a glass factory?

  4. Lani,
    Fire and sand, to be part of that primal force is tempting but the commute would be a killer.

  5. Hello Gloria, well I can recall not finding the proper glass sand to use being in Omaha Nebraska back in the early 70′s so we used Flint for the proper particulate size. When we didn’t batch for a proper phosphate opal we used Pepsi cullet provided by the local Pepsi botteling company or Miller High Life bottles provided by our local glassblowers consumption. No color rods were available and the degree of expermintation went a hell of allot further than it does today when you can buy your cullet out of a bag and the color rod from numerous distributors. Thank OJ (Jiggs) Gabbert for his introduction of some better cullet to use. I notice he became a life member of GAS in 1987. His tone on the phone will always be missed, Hope to see all in Seattle, Louie

  6. Beth says:

    I agree with the first sentence as well. I have had the same thought many times myself. I am a total left brainer. I love the technical aspects of kilnworking. I really enjoy these profiles, and the opportunity to see the everyone’s work. Please keep them coming!

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