Philbrook Museum of Art

Tulsa, OK

800-324-7941 918-749-7941

Front of Museum, photo by John Hazeltine

Museum Gardens, photo by John Hazeltine


William Morris: Myth, Object and the Animal

June 10 - August 19, 2001


William Morris connects us with our past - when nature provided a theater for drama. With fire as his tool, Morris uses glass to communicate a magical transformation, pushing his materials beyond their physical and chemical properties. Bone? Wood? Stone? Leather? William Morris creates works of art in glass that have the optical equivalence of these.

The exhibition includes twenty individual sculptures and two large installations created in the past two decades. Illustrating his uncanny ability to manipulate blown glass into something it really is not, Morris pushes the limit of glass blowing, the most fragile and seductive of mediums. His mesmerizing sculptures require extraordinary technical skills that seem beyond the physical and chemical possibilities of glass. These outwardly effortless accomplishments are the result of tremendous skill and a lifetime of experimentation, coupled with his true love of nature.

Morris uses the delicate medium of glass to recreate life-size black ravens and handsome deer heads that reflect archaeology and the animal. "Morris's works are not flashy, as are many pieces created in glass, but more quietly beautiful, with their opaque, sensual surfaces. A luminous color seems to glow within each piece as if it were some sort of life force or blood coursing through," states Patricia Watkinson in her introduction to the exhibition catalogue. His work invites the visitor to look at the ever-widening gap between contemporary culture, which focuses on technology and progress, and our primitive beginnings, shaped by the forces of nature and myth.

Uncanny forms invite comparison with peoples and civilizations such as Native America, ancient Egypt and Africa. Reaching through history and time, his work magically suggests an artifact or communicates the startling lurch of a bird. Wall installations stretch dozens of feet and command attention while reminding of ceremonies long forgotten. Poignant and provocative, Morris's work reflects our desire to know and yet still wonder, to see and yet continue to imagine. (left: Canopic Jar: Eland, 1995, blown glass, 48 x 15 x 12 inches)

Morris's interest in birds has led his work toward simplified new forms that remain true to the individual species. The pieces evoke a range of emotions, suggesting greed, hunger, aggression, mating rituals and more. Through these sculptures, Morris again invites us to reflect upon our own life.

Morris has spent over 25 years honing his skills and pushing the medium of glass further than anyone, including himself, could ever have imagined. The Seattle-area artist's pieces are in museum collections from New Zealand to Japan, from London's Victoria and Albert Museum to Paris's Musee des Arts Decoratifs. The work of William Morris can also be found at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Rhode Island School of Design, and the Norton Museum of Art in Palm Beach.

William Morris provides compelling evidence that the surest way to understand aspects of the past millennium and to imagine where we are going, is to look more carefully at the wisdom of where we have been. The future and the past have rarely been more clearly intertwined. (right: William Morris, April 1997)


About the artist

William Morris was born in Carmel, California, in 1957. He is considered to be one of the most gifted and innovative young glass artists in America today. He lives in Seattle where he originally worked as Dale Chihuly's gaffer (master glassblower) in the early 1980s, and has since maintained his own studio.

The work of William Morris has been strongly influenced by his interest in archeology and ancient pagan cultures. This influence is evident in his earlier Stonehenge series, Artifact Vessels, Suspended Artifacts, and most recently, his Rhyton Vessels.

Morris lives in a log house in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains and he spends hallowed time each year, alone, in Idaho's Bitterroot and Pioneer Mountains and Oregon's Wallowa and Elkhorn Mountains hunting elk with bow and arrow. He speaks of the purity of this encounter between man and animal, the elements of ritual and the force of this primal connection. This front-line experience gives Morris's work more than an aura of authenticity. As his glass-blowing skills have become honed, the perfect coordination of hand and eye clearly reveals itself as Morris the hunter. This is what makes viewing his works such an exciting and breathtaking experience.

Morris's work has been carried across distances on the tidal wave of glass that has emerged from Seattle since the 1970s. The presence of glass art is now known throughout the world, and Morris is at the center of this thriving tradition.

The William Morris Studio in conjunction with the Chrysler Museum of An, the Yellowstone Art Museum and the Fort Wayne Museum of Art organizes the exhibition. William Morris is sponsored in Tulsa by Oklahoma Arts Council, Paul L. and Helen I. Sisk Charitable Trust, and Philbrook's Contemporary Consortium: Chandler-Frates & Reitz, Mary McMahon and Lon Foster, Jack and Margaret Neely, Donald H. and Rita E. Newman, Ruth K. Nelson and Tom Murphy, Meinig Family Foundation.


Read more about Philbrook Museum of Art in Resource Library Magazine

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This page was originally published in Resource Library Magazine. Please see Resource Library's Overview section for more information. rev. 5/28/11

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