Monday, December 16, 2013

In the Studio...

Honored to design the Presidential Diversity Award for the University of Rochester. The etching, “Leadership”, is placed on optical dichroic glass, which gives it a dynamic quality that responds to changing light. Each award shows one of the many colors that can be seen as you move around the piece. It’s nice to see different views in one photo!

Photo: Courtesy © University of Rochester
Design: © Nancy Gong

Monday, November 25, 2013

Tibet: Beauty and calm of art glass windows replace the view of a porch ceiling

"Tibet," leaded art glass, aka stained glass replaces the view of the porch ceiling. Note the colorful reflection of color on the ceiling.

You may have seen this piece in progress: first the approved design and full sized cartoon followed by the pattern pieces for each window reduced down to a few thin piles of paper. Now the journey is complete, with the finished artwork installed in the Boynton’s home.
Before: A view of the porch ceiling.
During our first meeting, the Boynton’s shared many of their interests and loves with me.
It was when they shared the excitement of their experiences from a recent trip to the Himalayan region including Bhutan, that we knew we had pinned the overall design theme. They had chosen the transom windows between the dining room and porch as the location for the new art work to live. It would be a reminder of their journey.

Working from their stories and photos of their journey as a starting point, I returned to the studio to create the design with possible color combinations. Jim had been envisioning harmonic earth tones, while Marylou had a preference for strong colors. Most images of the Himalayas emulate subdued earth tones. After long deliberation, together they chose to have the majestic mountains portrayed in rich, saturated colors. The colors echo cultural elements in that part of the world while being a visual dichotomy between life in the Himalayas and life in the hills of New York’s Southern Tier.

"Tibet," detail of central mandala.

As the design began to unfold, it seemed fitting to name this piece “Tibet” after the Himalayan region. The Boynton’s were captivated by, not only the scenic beauty of the region, but also the culture. During our discussions of their travels, it was apparent that the journey to this remote part of the world was a cultural experience so close to nature that it would always be a part of them. As the design progressed, the Himalayan Mountains and mandala would be the focal points in the glass artwork. Other details would dive into the culture.
"Tibet," detail from one village wall looking to another village in the Himalayas.

Detailed photos of the leaded glass windows show the Tibetan Prayer flags, which were prevalent throughout the region. Terrain of the mountains was highlighted with subdued vitreous painting, to give the illusions that the mountains are off in the distance. Nestled in the foothills of the Himalayas is a monastery with turkey vultures soaring in the background, reflecting the flow of life and death within nature.
"TIbet," detail with turkey vultures.
Capturing the essence of the prayer flags proved to be a particular challenge. Brilliant transparent colors would highlight the prayer flags best. However, how could they be placed in the mountains without intrusive lead lines surrounding each flag? I needed to find glass that provided rich hues but also captured the physical properties of the flags. I decided to create the mountains using Lambert’s mouth blown flashed sheet glass – glass that has a clear base layer, with a thin, flashed color layered on the top. At each prayer flag location on the mountains, the portion of the flashed glass was removed leaving a colorless surface exposed. To ensure an accurate fit, each colored flag was meticulously cut and hand ground to minimize light shadows. Then each piece was laid on top of the mountains so the etching templates could be made as accurately as possible. This in laid approach gives the appearance that the flags are floating without the constraints of lead.

Perched high in the hills of New York’s Finger Lakes Region, with panoramic views throughout the house, the art glass windows provide a wonderful splash of color during the day with all four seasons as the backdrop. At night, all other windows in the home are untreated and unlit windows that appear as a solid sheet of darkness. With lighting, the colorful art is a treat for the residents from both inside and out. These dynamic changing views and colorful shadows remind the Boynton’s of their once in a lifetime experience by reflecting on the simplicity, beauty and cultural harmony with nature of the region.

"Tibet has become very important to me as a way of transcending the particulars of my experiences, and situating them in eternal cycles of life and death. If I get going too fast, I stop and gaze at the mandala, and slow down. The prayer flags stretch from the immediacy of the mandala to the distant mountains, and draw me out of myself.  They just flap away. I could spend the day watching the colors change with the day's light, but, as you know, one has to get the laundry done.”  – Marylou Boynton

Working on this design was a great joy as I traveled through the many images of the region. It is a region of the world with which I have a personal and spiritual connection.
To see “Tibet” in progress visit Nancy Gong, Gong Glass Work's Facebook page.

Photos and all art glass © 2013 Nancy Gong.
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Wednesday, June 26, 2013

A Day in the Studio – Thinking About Tibet

Today, I’m thinking of naming this baby “Tibet.” The decision will be made just before the last edge piece is leaded into the panel. Can’t really name the baby till she’s come to life!

Making progress. The full sized cartoon nears completion. More details and careful review.

Focused on transforming full size cartoons (drawings) into glass patterns for three leaded glass clerestory windows.

Below: Artist’s hands at work.

Captivated by the design, glass pattern pieces have been made from a meticulously drawn full sized drawing with most all of the fabrication details worked out. When completed, this will be as immensely colorful as the culture in Bhutan from the view of an outsider. The art glass will be a colorful reminder to the homeowners of a journey through Tibet and the Bhutan region of the Himalayas.

Three full sized windows with very fine detail are reduced to three piles of paper! Nearly two hundred prayer flag patterns. I am always amused when I can hold a window in my hand.

Patterns are sorted by color and type of glass.

At last, getting ready to cut glass. Patterns are being placed on top of the full sized cartoon. It’s like putting a paper puzzle together. It’s a hot summer day, but please, don’t turn the ceiling fan on!  

Many artistic processes will be utilized to create subtle layers of dimensional detail – all which will contribute to a design that is free of technical barriers so that the creation is true to my vision. The next steps are to paint and etch test samples. These will add to the breath of the design.

With over 20 different colors / types of Lamberts mouth blown sheet glass, who's afraid of color! Watch for progress in the future.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Home stretch

The mosaic is nearly done. Been at it for awhile. Getting ready to start the third shift for the day. Listening to Andreas. Did my stretching. Finishing up my tea. The tape marks you see in the photo are my targets for each thirteen to fourteen hour day. Man oh man, this is the home stretch. Think I can do it by Monday night!

Friday, March 29, 2013

Coming together

Coming together


Moving right along here with a mosaic for the ABVI Goodwill Donor wall. Hit the halfway point which is really more than halfway since the design narrows in the second half. Finally, the two halves of the mosaic substrate are together so I can now see the complete leaf like form. The color blending and the flow within the leaf is really coming to life. For now, I carrying on with thoughts of "More blue and green, or more dark green and light green, more light, more yellow and green. S t r e t c h." Can't wait to see it up! Got it all figured out; six inches a day which equates to a very long day, seven days a week with a day for clean up will allow for installation before our annual Society of American Mosaic Artists conference in Tacoma.
You can do it . . . you can do it . . . you can do it . . . choooo . . . choooo. . . !

Monday, March 11, 2013

Loose, but not exactly spontaneous


The creative process for smalti mosaics is different from my etched or leaded glass work. In my other glass art work, cutting, line placement, color and texture is largely determined on paper prior to creating the design in glass – although some changes occur as the art comes to life. For smalti mosaics, tesserae is cut from hand poured smalti from the Orsoni Smalti Veneziani foundry in Venice, Italy. The hand made smalti varies in size and color. Today, one of the colors I am working with has four different shades for the same color number. Details for the mosaic's form, general design layout and colors are determined before any smalti is cut. Before I begin a mosaic I have a sense of where I want to use which colors and how I envision the andamento to run. Andamento is the flow of the tesserae. It's the artistic design element that carries the eye through the mosaic. It's the movement and a major part of the life of the mosaic. The other critical component of a smalti design is the blending of colors. A mosaic as a whole is best enjoyed once you step back when the individual colors blend together to make an image somewhat like today's pixels on a computer. The difference is that the smalti mosaic has wonderful visual and physical texture that gently glistens in the light.

For this mosaic, I am constantly referring to the scaled drawing and stepping back to look at the mosaic by way of a photograph or viewed from a step ladder. Few lines are marked on the board the mosaic is being built on. The color is not drawn out on the board. The andamento and color blending are created right then and there. I might layout the color ways for a two to three inches out at a time, then go back to cut and fit the smalti.

So, for now, it's loose, but not exactly spontaneous like all mosaics, inch by inch, but for nearly forever.

And here, Oliver doesn't want to miss a thing as he waits for me to wrap things up for the evening.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Inch by inch

In the studio. 

Moving right along, as only a mosaic can progress, inch by inch. Every now and then, and at the end of a session, I step back to take a look at the color blending and the andamento. In this photo, part two of a donor wall for ABVI, Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired.
What you see is part of a fourteen foot wide abstracted leaf being created as a smalti (glass tesserae made in Italy) mosaic. It will hang over the donor glass panels which were installed last week. The full design is shown in the upper right corner. Follow the progress here.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Memorial Art Gallery "Art Reflected 1913-2013"

What started as an invitation to participate in Art Reflected 1913-2013, a centennial exhibition opening February 10th at the Memorial Art Gallery, has turned into a personal historical journey for award winning Rochester glass artist Nancy Gong. The objective of the exhibition for forty regional artists is to create new art inspired by a selection of art in the gallery’s permanent collection. It’s part of a fundraiser for the gallery’s Centennial Celebration.
Drawn to a story about Native American women’s experiences, Gong chose the contemporary work of Juane Quick-To-See Smith’s Famous Names.
Through a new (to the US) laminating process originated in Germany, the artist takes the lead in developing a dimensionally intriguing vocabulary in art glass. It combines old and new techniques weaving six layered surfaces of painted and etched photographic images and textures into one piece.
Gong, a first generation American born Chinese, traces the history of the 1880 Chinese Exclusion Act, its quotas and its repeals up through a recent apology in 2011 from the U.S. Congress for the discriminatory immigration law aimed at a specific ethnic group.
 War Bride, designed by Nancy Gong, is inspired by the artist’s mother. It is an interactive design that comes alive with light as the viewer moves around. The design celebrates the strength, courage, forward thinking and experiences of a modern woman from 1925 through the 1980’s by tracing a War Bride’s life.

Searches of ship manifests, consulate records, service records, in depth conversations with her father, a new connection to an uncle never met, photos from her sister’s travels, weeks of internet research blended with the artist’s personal connection to the culture helped pieced together facets of the war brides life. The glass artist has collected many stories along the way to generate a vivid picture of her experiences. The artist claimed “There were so many detailed questions. The curiosity was like that of a child.” The art unveils mysterious colors and multiple layers of images carefully sorted out to capture a sense of time. Meanwhile, informing aspects of the brides life in the east, a young armed forces member and his war bride being carried in a sedan chair to the groom’s village, a wedding in a small village, life in the villages, rice fields and the progression of the journey to the Golden Mountain - the US are revealed. Gong hopes the art will help to bring an awareness of the War Brides’ time in history as the beginning of a greater presence and beginning of Chinese and other Asian families and their experiences to people of all walks of life, of multiple generations.