The Artist's Muse Art Blog
Contemporary Glass Artist, Josh Simpson
Natural glass forms when specific kinds of rocks melt as they are exposed to extremely meteor hits the earth. Once cool, the liquid rock solidifies. This phenomenon has been happening since the beginning of time. Primitive human beings are said to have used glass made of obsidian and tektites (naturally formed glass, volcanic or extraterrestrial in origin) as cutting tools. Ancient Romans discovered glass when cooking in the sand. The intense heat of the fire melted nitrate blocks which were used as a resting place for cook pots. The blocks melted and mixed with the sand underneath them to form an opaque liquid, known today as glass. Soon people began experimenting with this substance and a craft was formed. Artisans learned to work with this new medium in clever ways.
Contemporary Glass artist, Josh Simpson, who's work is currently on view at the Springfield Art Museums in Springfield, Massachusetts, has pushed the medium to its limit, but has not forgotten its origins as is evident is his meteorite pieces called tektites. These pieces were inspired by his first experiments in college. "Tektite meteor glass is a combination of silica and metallic oxides that are abundant in the universe. It is profoundly different from the smooth, luscious clear glass I usually work with. It is rough, dark and bubbly and difficult to handle. By combining the right proportions of raw materials I was able to re-create this meteorite glass in my studio, and my tektites were born," said Simpson.
Internationally recognized, the artist is most known for his glass "planets." Simpson wanted to create in glass what he imagined the earth would look like an airplane or space ship. This eventually led to his Infinity Project, which was inspired when Simpson found some old marbles on his property left by the previous owner's children 60 -- 70 years before. He freely distributes small glass planets to people around the world to bury in unusual locations. Simpson gives away small planets on a regular basis and has placed planets in areas of his hometown, Shelburne Falls Massachusetts, other American cities and in exotic locations such as at the foot of volcanoes, the Australian desert, the catacombs of Paris and more. The planets are designed to be gifts to a total stranger who might find them. He hopes to inspire the same kind of wonder that he felt when he found seventy-year-old lost marbles in his garden.
Simpson began experimenting with glass while in college. He and a few friends were intrigued by the glass furnace at a Goddard College where a friend was studying, which was sitting idle. Simpson and a friend fired them up and Simpson began experimenting with the medium. Simpson took a year off from college to study glass so that he could explore his creative process. He constructed his own glass furnace after the one at Goddard was dismantled and started making goblets, which was very challenging. He felt that the goblets would be easy to sell at craft shows and he was in need of cash to fund his new found art form. Later, he met his soon to be wife, Cady Coleman, a scientist and astronaut who encouraged his curious nature. Simpson soon found himself flying an airplane in order to view the planet earth from a new perspective. This experience led to the series of work referred to as his planets.
A Visionary Journey in Glass, a retrospective exhibition, includes a variety of works that Simpson has produced over his thirty-year career. When visitors first enter the gallery they will see glass goblets, which were some of his first works, exhibited alongside a set of goblets with meteorite bases, which came later. This case reflects the old and the new works by Simpson symbolically encapsulating his journey. Simpson's work rarely makes literal references to nature, but is more evocative in nature. "Realism can be constraining; hinting gives more latitude," said Simpson. Simpson's enchantment with the natural world and curiosity about it is evident in this exhibition and will inspire a sense of wonder in all who view it.
Photo credit: Tommy Olof Elder