“The human act of collecting is a way to relate on a personal scale to the vast, mysterious and ultimately unknowable place that we inhabit.” – Ursula Marcum.
In a clumsy effort to pigeonhole the careers, former careers and personalities that make up the stories behind the twenty “Act 2” artists who shared a kiln-glass residency at Pilchuck in 2009 and 2010, I almost labeled Baltimore artist Ursula Marcum a former “exhibitionist”
I admit, the made-up term “collectionist” isn’t much better, but somehow “museum exhibit designer,” while it may accurately describe a stage of Marcum’s career history, just doesn’t capture the focused intensity behind the artist’s engagement with the collective impulse and what it says to us.
But exhibitionist is not entirely inaccurate.
Isn’t this what an artist does? Baring it all, and in the process risking to let others in? And aren’t we then fortunate voyeurs to this process?
Is the small odd thrill we get in nighttime glimpses into strangers’ windows so dissimilar from the curiosity piqued on poking through those mildly disturbing Victorian collections?
More satisfying even than the purely voyeuristic – which for me has been richly fed by the many process, group and inspirational photos provided by the Pilchuck residents – has been watching the diverse elements come together, as they do in Marcum’s work.
Within a single small assemblage Marcum hints at and records evidence, history, inquiry, explanation – frozen on multiple layers of time and space. This is what glass does well and Marcum works it skillfully from sketch, through model, to finished work.
Marcum has chosen glass wisely. Not for its beauty – although it is certainly that – but for its preservative qualities, its ability to hold permanently, as if archived, a sense of passing moments and deteriorating objects.
This tendency to conserve and to safeguard is also at the heart of teaching, another career in the artist’s background and one that she continues through her work at the noted Beltsville, Maryland studio Vitrum.
In this material, Marcum’s twin career tracks of museum exhibition and teaching merge and continue. Lucky for us. Lucky for glass.
To read more on Marcum, the artist, the work and her teaching, click here.
To see more about Marcum’s classes and the full kiln-glass program at Vitrum, click here:
For details on the upcoming “Act 2″ exhibition at the Museum of Northwest Art, go here.