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Using the Landscape of Glass

08/20/2014

In OLD VENETIAN GLASS (2014, digital print, 48x36”) Harty replicates glass vessel silhouettes using LED lights and slow-exposure photography.

“The Glass department at RISD is unlike any other program in the world,” says artist/educator Kim Harty 06 GL. “When you come out of the program, you know the landscape of glass and how to use it. And if you don’t know something specific, you can learn it. I see people from my class getting full-time teaching positions and running entire departments.”

Harty herself is about to become one of them. Having earned an MFA at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago last year, she has completed three highly regarded artist residencies since graduating. This summer she learned that she has been appointed an assistant professor of Crafts-Glass at the College for Creative Studies (CCS) in Detroit, MI, where she will also lead the glass program starting next month.

Why Harty? She was a great fit for the school, which started as the Detroit Society of Arts and Crafts in 1906 and is intimately tied to the history of industry, craft and labor. Harty’s own research focuses on the history of production and the ways in which the performance of making crafts ties into the factory, studio or workshop. “I’m invested in the performance of making things,” Harty explains. “Whatever happens in the studio is ultimately translated into a concrete object, a form with embodied knowledge that can be recreated through muscle memory.”

Although she’s looking forward to her new life in Detroit – which, she says, “seems like an amazing place to live as an artist” – Harty is sorry to leave behind the community she discovered in Chicago during her just-completed yearlong BOLT residency with the Chicago Artists Coalition. “It was awesome,” she gushes. “You get a studio and a solo show, and the Coalition schedules all kinds of community activities involving cultural leaders, critics and other artists. I got so much great feedback!”

For her BOLT show, Human Factors, Harty used motion-capture photography and projection to record her movements in the studio, examining the tension between personal expression and efficiency in artistic production. It’s a theme she has been exploring since her days at RISD, when she created – and then “attacked” with metal tools – a piece she called Scar Window. “I’m interested in glass as a medium and a historical material,” she says, “but my practice is really interdisciplinary.”

In terms of teaching, Harty’s favorite subject matter is the history of optical devices, which grabbed her interest while she was working with RISD Associate Professor Jocelyne Prince MFA 94 GL, whom she considers a mentor. “I got a lot out of her approach to process, her curiosity,” Harty explains. “Jocelyne thinks like a scientist and uses the glass studio almost as a lab. And her optics class definitely inspired and influenced my pedagogy.”

Other influences include Charlotte Potter MFA 10 GL, with whom she’s co-taught and collaborated; artist and fabricator Deborah Czeresko, who was working at the Pilchuck Glass School as a gaffer when Harty was TA-ing there in 2006; and Glass quarterly editor Andrew Page in NYC, who hired her as managing editor when she was “super-green.”

“Working at Glass gave me the opportunity to research deeply what was going on in the glass community,” says Harty. “We excavated every nook and cranny of the scene and put it in a critical context. I was constantly thinking about how emerging artists fit into the larger glass narrative.”

Even with her strong CV and new appointment at CCS, Harty still considers herself an emerging artist. She completed a six-week Emerging Artist in Residency at Pilchuck only a year ago, and despite the fact that she recently exhibited her work at the Sullivan Gallery in Chicago, the Heller Gallery in New York and the Chrysler Museum of Art in Norfolk, VA, she doesn’t have a permanent relationship with any one gallery.  

“In the glass world there’s a real hunger for interdisciplinary work that goes outside the traditional box and pushes what glass is as a material,” Harty says. “It’s harder to collect these ideas than traditional studio craft. Some galleries are trying to cultivate the emerging generation, but it’s challenging to find representation. Most people in glass operate as free agents.”

 –Simone Solondz

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tags: alumni, Glass, innovation, interdisciplinary

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The men in this 1903 portrait class were serious about the business at hand.