Visiting artist #3 extra credit

Josiah McElheny

Josiah McElheny is an American artist who dabbles in many different mediums. He is primarily a glass blower, but also employs other materials such as wood and metal. He utilizes these materials in a combination of installations, photographs and performance art. Most of his work is on a very large scale, and is done partly by hand and partly with the aid of computers. My reaction to his work was a positive one and I think that the majority of his pieces are visually stunning. Unfortunately, the more he tried to explain the convoluted metaphors and unrelated complex messages behind each piece, my personal feelings toward his art were diminished. His messages range from exploring modernity, to the expansiveness of the universe, to his fondness of mathematical laws, and then to his self-exploration.

At the time his lecture was recorded, he had recently completed working on a piece titled “Outpine Cathedral and City Crown,” which was a model of the architecture and geometric topography on an octagonal grid. He uses complex mathematical measurements for the designing, and wood, metal and natural crystals for the physical creation process. I found his decision to use crystals as opposed to glass very interesting. He wanted to retain the transparency of the glass, but did not like the overall uniformity of the glass. He settled on the natural crystals to supply the piece with texture, and also keep the level of transparency; the result is beautiful. Another work McElheny completed shortly before this lecture was filmed was, in my opinion his most breathtaking piece. It is a small sphere of glowing lights, with a multitude of protruding metal rods with glowing orbs attached to the end. The result looks like a gigantic glowing explosion shattered light. He says that the cluster of brightly glowing lights in the very center is intended to represent the remaining uranium left over from the big bang theory. He adds that manufactured objects normally contain an assembling of identical pieces repeated on each individual object, but this work has no identical parts; they are all unique. Another aspect of this piece that I found very interesting is the mathematical and scientific complexities of both the design and execution of that design that were imperative to the creative process. McElheny says that this work took a very long time to complete, and is very complex, but that he doesn’t particularly want the audience to know exactly how it was done. The mystery behind the design only adds to the awe and beauty of the piece.

Reflective materials are also a crucial part of his work, and he invited the obvious connection between the viewers’ reflection in the piece itself, and the reflection of them personally in modern society. Towards the end of the lecture he encourages the audience to critically examine their own personal part in society if they want to be included in modernity.

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