Exhibit seeks to renew local interest in glass sculpture

Cristina De Guia, senior in FAA, displays her Untitled, a work combining photography, metal, magnets and glass pebbles, at the Krannert Art Museum on Thursday. Ben Cleary

Cristina De Guia, senior in FAA, displays her “Untitled,” a work combining photography, metal, magnets and glass pebbles, at the Krannert Art Museum on Thursday. Ben Cleary

By Kathleen Foody

An impressive collection that began with a simple decorating project will be exhibited at the Krannert Art Museum, located at 500 E. Peabody Drive, through Dec. 31.

“Eye, Form, and Symbol: The Jon and Judith Liebman Collection of Contemporary Sculpture in Glass” opened on October 21 with a formal reception and opened to the public on Oct. 22. The collection features pieces from countries across the world including Czechoslovakia, England, France, Japan, Hungary, Sweden, Poland and the United States.

The artists used various techniques in the creation of their pieces including blowing, polishing, cutting into plates or blocks, or casting the delicate material. Though glass is the major component in all the pieces, the various artists also used crystal, gold, granite, rope and other materials, according to plaques stationed around the exhibit.

Jon Liebman, professor emeritus of environmental engineering at the University, and his wife Judith Liebman, professor emeritus of operations research in the department of mechanical and industrial engineering, donated their collection to Krannert. Jon Liebman stressed the uniqueness of glass sculpture in that it is a comparatively new field which has given the Liebman’s an opportunity to meet with the artists whose pieces they have added to the collection.

Michael Conner, curator of collections at the Krannert Art Museum, has been collaborating with the Liebmans since 2003 when they first invited him to see their collection.

“Illinois institutions played a very important role in the early education of many American studio glass artists who both developed the technology and popularized the concept of studio glass throughout the U.S. and abroad,” Conner said. “I immediately recognized the significance of their collection and the inevitability of having an exhibition as soon as it could be worked into the museum’s busy exhibition schedule.”

The exhibit is organized into three categories: eye, form and symbol. The “eye” pieces attract viewers with their jewel-like appearance. “Form” pieces capture attention with their bold structure. “Symbol” pieces are more recognizable objects or images, including birds and human figures.

The exhibit is gathering attention from University students and the surrounding community. One particular piece, “Butterfly & Pin” by Rick Beck, captured the attention of Leslie Moneka, senior in Education. The piece features roughly hewn glass and steel formed together.

“There’s just such a delicate edge to it, even though you normally think of nails as being strong. You just wonder how they get glass to do this,” Moneka said.

Dave Barounis, senior in LAS, added as he gazed around at the glittering surfaces, “I want to take some of the pieces home for my apartment.”

Conner said he hopes that this exhibit may spark a renewal of interest and commitment to the re-establishing and maintaining the legacy of glass sculpture at the University.

“With the advent of computer-generated and other forms of visual art, resources for supporting studio glass have dwindled” he added.

The Liebmans will be giving a guided tour of their collection on December 11, but the exhibit will remain open through December 31. The Krannert Art Museum is open from 9-5 Tuesday-Saturday, with extended hours until 9 on Thursdays, and from 2-5 on Sundays. Admission is free, with a $3 suggested donation.