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Indepth Arts News:

"Visionary Landscapes: The Glassworks of Josh Simpson"
2001-10-02 until 2002-02-10
University of Richmond Museums
Richmond, VA, USA United States of America

Organized by the Bruce Museum of Arts and Science in Greenwich, Connecticut, the exhibition of miniature glass worlds features selections from several of Simpson's series, including Megaworlds, Planets, and Inhabited Vases. A video demonstrating Simpson's glassblowing techniques will also be on view. Simpson began his career by creating wine goblets, a few of which were used in the White House during the Carter administration. Since then, his work has become more abstract and suggestive of planetary landscapes.

Simpson's inspiration to create glass Planets came from his fascination with space and an experience working with teenagers. When asked to give a series of glassblowing demonstrations at a local high school, Simpson made marbles that represented planets to give to each student. While forming these marbles, Simpson recalled astronaut Jim Lovell's comment spoken while the Apollo spaceship was returning to earth: I can cover the earth with my thumb.

Simpson's Planets range in size from a few inches to a foot in diameter, and the largest ones consist of more than twenty layers of glass. These layers contain small chips of colored glass, powdered glass, or gold leaf, creating a multifaceted world.

In 1976, Simpson discovered some old marbles on his property left by the previous owner's children, maybe 60 or 70 years ago. Seeing these marbles inspired Simpson to start his Infinity Project of freely distributing his small Planets to people all around the world. He also buries a few of these works in various locations so that others will find them. Simpson has placed his Planets in areas of his home town of Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts, and other American cities, as well as in locations as exotic as the foot of volcanoes, the catacombs in Paris, and the Australian desert. Because of the lasting nature of the glass medium, some of these Planets may be found by future generations.

Simpson's Inhabited Vases retain the depth and detail of the Planets, with their suspended chips of color creating a microcosm beneath the glass surface. In experimentation with other materials, Josh Simpson has created the Blue New Mexico series of vases and goblets, as well as Tektites, glassworks made to resemble meteorites turned into glass upon impact with the earth. Simpson's synthesis of the crude tektite glass with a smooth, delicate Planet creates a form with visual and tactile contrast, called a Portal.

Simpson grew up in South Salem, New York, and attended Hamilton College where he received his bachelor's degree. As a senior at Hamilton, he was encouraged to use the month of January to do anything that he wanted that would be academically redeeming. Simpson heard about a glass furnace at Goddard College in Vermont, so he decided to go there to investigate the art of glassblowing. He was so taken by this medium that he stayed until the following January, when he returned to Hamilton to complete his degree.

After graduating, he moved to Connecticut where he built a studio and lived for several years. He now lives on a farm in Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts, where he continues glassblowing in his barn-converted studio. In 1997 he married astronaut Cady Coleman, who is a source of inspiration to Simpson in his work.

Simpson's art is included in the permanent collections of the White House Collection of American Crafts, Corning Museum of Glass in Cornwall, NewYork, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Museum of Decorative Arts in Prague, Czech Republic, Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, Yale University Art Gallery, and the Royal Ontario Museum. Simpson's studio website is megaplanet.com.

An exhibition catalogue published by the Bruce Museum of Arts and Science, Greenwich, Connecticut, will be available for sale.

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