It’s the end of a rich Thanksgiving weekend and among so much other good fortune, I’m feeling blessed for all that Dan and I enjoy in being part of Bullseye. Making a material for art-making has rewards on too many levels to cover in a single post, but today I’d like to spotlight just one: “Working Glass”.
“Working Glass” is an annual competition and exhibition that each Fall drives Bullseye’s casters, melters, warehousemen, sales reps, and even gallery staff into their home studios and factory kilns in pursuit of the fame (relative) and fortune (modest) that awaits the winners. This year the competition was fierce.
Beyond the intriguing display of objects that “Working Glass” always yields, it’s the people behind the work that make this show so rich for me. Thanks is owed to the marketing department who every year collect and compile the stories underlying the objects – the stories of the people who shape this community in occasionally odd, often remarkable, and always delightful ways.
As Bullseye has grown over the (27) years that I’ve been here in size and staff – from 20 of us when I started to almost 150 today – it’s often been difficult to keep track of who’s who, especially as we expand across a river and outside Portland. “Working Glass” is a peek into the personalities of many of the creative eccentrics who make Bullseye such a special place,
Working Glass gives a face – and more often than not a smile – to a growing and evolving group of people. It ‘s also given me a chance to watch the evolution of a culture.
Bullseye started 37 years ago with three university art program graduates. But behind the academic skills, Dan, Ray and Boyce brought equally useful talents of farm mechanics, salesmanship and bartending, to name just a few.
The placards adjacent to each piece in the Working Glass exhibition reveal a similar mix of rich background experience from MFAs to skateboarders.
One of the things that distinguishes this year’s showing is the increasing percentage of first-timers, entrants who haven’t competed in previous years, either because they were new hires or just hadn’t stepped up to the plate in the past.
Another trend this year is the increasing number of art school graduates breaking into glass through varied departments within the company, from warehouse, to R&E, to the gallery. Curiously, of the art grad award winners, none came out of glass programs.
Chris Biegun, Warehouse, 1st Place: Axe #1
Michael Endo, Gallery, 2nd Place: Et in Arcadia Ego
Melody Kennedy, Manager Emeryville RC , 3rd Place: Flap Jacks
Biegun arrived at Bullseye with a BFA in painting from Southern Illinois University. Endo‘s background was likewise in painting, with a BA from Portland State and an MFA from Cranbrook Academy of Art. Kennedy’s BFA was in sculpture from Arizona State; her MFA in spatial arts from San Jose State.
It’s always been a part of Bullseye’s mission to broaden the reach of glass, to involve the larger arts world with the material that we make and explore. Watching this mission take root and flourish within our own walls reconfirms that direction.
Paul McNulty, Research & Education, 1st Place: Pod Lamp 1.2
Eric Brush, Casting, 2nd place: No Name
Sarah Givens, Sales Rep, 3rd Place: Untitled
A part of Bullseye that I’ve always loved is its DIY attitude. Most of the equipment is made in-house, conceived with a “why not” mentality and the frugality of a farmer or a small business start-up (before the age of venture capitalism!).
Paul McNulty is an electrical engineer working in the R&E department. His statement about his 1st Prize entry perfectly captured that spirit for me:
“ I built my first lighting fixture at age 5 using my Dukes of Hazard lunchbox and dashboard lights I found in a wrecked Toyota Celica. It actually worked for a few seconds before the wiring vaporized and it caught fire.”
Eric Brush’s artistic background was equally grounded: “Blown glass off and on for about 10 years and paint, draw, and play drums.”
Sales Rep Sarah Givens went with the flow in both her simple plate and her unassuming description of how she got to it: “….It all started with mudpies and fingerpaints….”
Michael Endo, Gallery, 1st Place: Et in Arcadia Ego (see image above in First-Timers category)
Melody Kennedy, Manager Emeryville RC , 2nd Place: Flap Jacks (image in First-Timers)
Ryan Sharpe, Melting, 3rd Place: Aura
By far the largest number of entries was in the non-functional category. This is also the category where two of the First-Timers re-appeared to sweep first and second place. Taken together, Endo’s, Kennedy’s and Ryan Sharpe’s third place work showed the full range of possibility in kiln-glass from a classically-referenced painterly approach to pop-sculpture to a chromatically luscious decorative ode to the beauty of the material.
Chris Biegun, warehouse: Axe #1
Like the other First-Time award winners, Chris Biegun’s axe walked off with a second award, the prestigious President’s Prize.
I knew the minute I saw that rough-cast glass wedge on its aged cedar handle that Dan was going to fall in love with it. He did. In so many ways it captures a lot of what this show and this place is about: the handmade, the quirky, the brutally honest, the irony of a factory that breeds art, and a community of people that every year reshape what they do in their jobs and their lives into objects that startle, delight, awe, and amuse.
But don’t take my word for it. Go see the show. It’s up in the upstairs gallery of the Portland Resource Center until December 30.