Master Artist Narcissus Quagliata Comes to Santa Fe

Burning Monk #3 Kilnformed glass, 2002 by Narcissus Quagliata, 35" x 19" x .5"

“The world is color, nature is color, culture and art are color, as well as the psyche.” That’s some pretty heady stuff, when you think about it. But Narcissus Quagliata is not one to shy away from monumental ideas or projects. I was introduced to his work during BECon 2013: Chroma-Culture, an experience which broadened my appreciation of glass, art, and color in more ways than I can count (more on BECon in my next post).

Narcissus Quagliata was born in Rome in 1942, where he studied painting with Giorgio De Chirico. At 19, he moved to the United States and received both a Bachelors and a Masters degree in Painting & Graphics from the San Francisco Art Institute. Soon after graduation, he began working in glass and continues to use it as his principle form of artistic expression. Currently residing in Mexico, Quagliata’s recent monumental glass works, one built on Michelangelo’s last Roman basilica and another on a Taiwanese transportation station underscore the multicultural issues inherent in the artist’s use of light and color.

Now just let that sink in for a second: how would you feel if you were invited to create a work of your own that would be attached to something created by Michelangleo? No pressure there.

This internationally-famous artist is coming to Santa Fe on July 17 to speak and sign copies of his brand-new book, Narcissus Quagliata: Archetypes and Visions in Light and Glass. [More information on the event, including tickets.]

I can say with complete confidence that if you have ever been curious about color and its many shades of meaning, this is a must-see presentation. I came away from his BECon talk with my head spinning with new concepts about how to consider color and its impact in my life and my art. The presentation spans a truly impressive body of work in many media (Narcissus equates his approach to working in watercolor as being exactly the same as his approach to glass). He is a pioneer of many glass methods, and has pushed the technique of working with enamel paints on glass to new heights.

Here are a few of the gems he shared:

Color lives in you, even if you perceive it to be outside of you. To understand color, you must understand:
1) the physics of light
2) the biology of vision—understanding your instrument (the eyes)
3) understanding yourself—the entire body is engaged in the perception of color

Color as culture: it is important for an artist to understand that the symbolism of color differs geographically and by society. For instance, white can be a color of mourning, and in China, red has a very different meaning than it has in other cultures.

As an artist, you must be aware of your relationships to things and people and how they influence your perception of color. Seeing is more intense when saying “hello” or saying “goodbye”—in other words, when we are seeing something for the first or last time.

Existence is equivalent to light: color is not simply a perception—we are the color.

Editor’s note: Guest blogger Lois Manno is a New Mexico-based writer, artist, and illustrator. She’s also a newcomer to kiln-glass who’s agreed share some of her adventures in her new medium here. She blogs about her art and other adventures – including cave exploration – at loismanno.com.

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