Glassmaking has certainly changed since humans started doing it, about four millennia ago. But while making art from glass is still a fairly artisanal process, that’s changing, too, as seen in a new exhibit at Pittsburgh Glass Center.
The show is called “Silica Valley,” a punning reference to silica, or sand, a key component of glass. The exhibit features some three dozen works by a group of artists who incorporate digital technology into their practices.
The finished works don’t actually incorporate wires, circuits or LEDs, says curator John Sharvin. But they were all fashioned with digital techniques.
Some of these techniques involve CNC, or Computer Numerical Control. Brooklyn-based Fred Kahl, for instance, “uses CNC routing technology to carve out molds, and then ladles glass into those molds to create components that he will then heat back up and assemble in the hot shop with a team of artists to create his sculptures,” said Sharvin.
Joanne Mitchell, an artist from the United Kingdom, uses CNC water-jet technology, which uses high-pressure water-jets to cut sheet glass that she incorporates into sculptures.
The artists in “Silica Valley” are a bit unusual in embracing such techniques, said Sharvin.
“They’re really at the forefront, and there’s not many doing it in the world,” added Sharvin, himself a glass artist and a studio technician manager at the Center.
Digitally enhanced methods are even a bit controversial in the community, he said.
“Technology can sometimes be viewed as cheating or – you know, it’s not handmade anymore if a machine makes it,” he said. “I wanted to showcase that work can be made with a machine and still have that human hand, that artist hand, that is necessary in making that art.”
The show includes work by seven artists or pairs of artists. Along with Kahl and Mitchell, they include Brandyn Callahan and Phirak Suon; Vanessa Cutler; Daniel Cutrone: Jenn Figg and Mathew McCormack; and Norwood Viviano.
The show opens with a reception Friday as part of Unblurred, the monthly Penn Avenue gallery crawl. All the participating artists will attend, said Sharvin. They’ll also participate in Saturday’s gallery talk.