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Vibrant colors dominate glass art exhibit

Beauty. It's a necessity of life, and we can always use more of it, whether in the nature of the Carolinas, the innocence of children or the enduring quality of original art. And now more of it can be found in Hot Glass Paris / Cold Glass Murano, the current exhibit at the Christa Faut Gallery in Cornelius.

Now through June 30, the gallery, in cooperation with local private art dealer Robert D. Smith, is presenting this beautiful show of art glass created in Europe. (Christa Faut grew up in Berlin, Germany, surrounded with the culture of European art and music.)

According to Smith, these works combine the overlay of color over color, a hot glass technique, followed by the Murano, Italy, technique of cold grinding of the glass with diamond cutting wheels. This allows the glass to have facets, texture and patterns, and a subtle color may be seen beneath the surface. (Murano, incidentally, is an island about a quarter of a mile from Venice.)

The artists featured in this show are Philip Baldwin and Monica Guggisberg, who both live in Paris. Smith notes that these two artists are making sturdy and substantial glass art.

"I have a glass pumpkin of theirs in my house," relates Smith. "One day, the pumpkin fell from its shelf and landed on a granite countertop. The pumpkin was not harmed; however, the countertop was cracked. Baldwin and Guggisberg are practicing old-time creative and production values in their art."

In their book In Search of Clear Lines, the artists write, "We started out in 1982 with an extremely simple idea of what we wanted to do. We were inspired by the example set by Ann Wolff and Wilke Adolfsson in their studio in Transjo, Sweden, where we apprenticed for two years...

"We were molded by the Scandinavian tradition of glass and design in general, in which form and function take a leading position... We were intrigued by the role design played to express a culture's values and desires... We grasped the idea of repetition in its very best sense. That is, repetition as disciplined training, even as an aesthetic approach to learning: a kind of yoga, in which skills are continually absorbed."

These works are very dramatic. The ones called "Guardians" are approximately two-feet-long glass forms that resemble gourds -- or possibly birds or dancers -- set atop steel poles, creating a forest of reflective beauty in cobalt blue, purple, yellow and cross-hatched green and blue. There is such a natural grace in the lines of these glass "Guardians" with their elongated necks, that they seem like they must be from nature and not from the studio.

Other glass sculptures here, labeled "Courtesans," have rounded heads at the end of the gourd shape; one of these even sports the patterns of a giraffe.

Baldwin has great interest in ship building and design, so the duo's "Sentinel" vase form is inspired by the construction of a boat's hull.

Baldwin and Guggisberg also display ideograph prints, which are printed from glass plates. This is a technique that has been popularized by the North Carolina artist Harvey Littleton. One of these prints shows two simple, bold purple ovals -- inspired by the boat hull designs -- on a rich orange field. This is an orange the viewer keeps wanting to look at again and again without ever tiring of the unique shading.

Also outstanding is "The Blue Dancer," where blue, yellow and black balls on two seven-foot-tall steel frames reflect the rhythm of each other.

Yet the showstopper in the exhibit is another seven-foot-tall work, "The Archer." On a steel rod shaft rests a large reddish-yellow glass ball, and on the metal bow are 10 glass balls in varying sizes and colors. In addition to their glass blowing, the strength of the artists is their use of positive and negative space, and this piece demonstrates a perfect harmony in the balls that are touching and the ones that are free standing. It's the best piece in a show that's bursting with beauty.

The exhibit Hot Glass Paris / Cold Glass Murano continues through June 30 at the Christa Faut Gallery, 19818 North Cove Road, Cornelius. (Take Exit 28, one mile west of I-77.) Hours are 10am-5pm Monday-Friday, 10am-3pm Saturday. For further information, call 704-892-5312.

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