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Josh Simpson: A Visionary Journey in Glass, 1972-2007

November 20, 2007 - February 3, 2008


Josh Simpson: A Visionary Journey in Glass, 1972-2007, a retrospective exhibition highlighting more than three decades of glassblowing by one of the most acclaimed artists in the field, will be on view from November 20, 2007 through February 3, 2008 at the Springfield Museum of Fine Arts in Massachusetts.

The exhibition of more than 100 works from the artist's personal collection traces the journey of this master of glass from his early traditional pieces to the spectacular multi-layered works of the present. Highlights from the exhibit are a stunning group of Flower Vases from the 1980s which are antecedents of the Inhabited Vases he makes today, a diverse group of Megaplanets from 1977 to the present, a spectacular Ruby Saturn and a special group of his Tektites, made from glass that is chemically similar to real meteorites. The exhibition will also feature other early and rarely seen glass sculptures, a special collection of his red New Mexico glass, Copper Baskets, Iridescent Vases, Goblets, Perfume Bottles, Portals, and Inhabited Vases.

Largely self-taught, Simpson is a strong voice among the first generation of studio glass artists. He first experimented with glass in 1970 when he was a student at Hamilton College in Clinton, New York. Since that time, working in his studio in Shelburne Falls, Mass., he has devoted himself to mastering all aspects of glassmaking, from building his own furnaces and tools, to learning the chemistry of glass, to mastering the ancient techniques of blowing and forming.

A Visionary Journey in Glass is the first major retrospective of Simpson's engaging work, presenting highlights from the artist's productive 35-year career. Simpson began working in glass by making stemmed goblets. He later created iridescent vases and overlay floral vases, inspired by Tiffany's glass. But their lack of originality bothered him, and he began to experiment with the silver bromide and cobalt glass that became the precursor to his signature New Mexico pieces. This shimmering blue glass, which Simpson imagined looked like the night skies of New Mexico, became the basis for many of his best-known goblets, vases, bowls and platters.

Much of Simpson's inspiration derives from the mysterious realm of outer space and NASA images of Earth. His Tektites and Portals grew out of a desire to replicate the glass formed by meteors impacting terrestrial rocks. Perhaps Simpson's greatest satisfaction has been gained from his Planets -- elegant spheres encasing whimsical suggestions of other worlds. Incorporating the same glass mixture used in the New Mexico series, Simpson forms "oceans" in these pieces. He creates "continents" by adding Venetian-style canes, mosaic pieces, and glass powders, and uses additional pieces of cane to create "space ships" that appear to be orbiting high above the imagined landscapes. The luminous glass spheres, which range in size from slightly larger than a golf ball to 100-pound Megaplanets, encase kaleidoscopic landscapes, underwater scenes, and vistas of outer space that reflect Earth's vastness and complexity. One of his Megaplanets, recently commissioned by the Corning Museum of Glass, weighs 107 pounds and is the world's largest glass paperweight. The making of this planet was the subject of the PBS documentary Defying Gravity.

Throughout his career, Josh Simpson has pushed the limits of glass to match his boundless imagination, creating an impressive body of work that strikes a perfect balance of form, content and spirit. His work is in the permanent collections of many museums, including the Springfield Museum of Fine Arts, the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, the White House Collection of American Crafts, and the Museum of Decorative Arts in Prague.

Josh Simpson: A Visionary Journey in Glass was organized by the Huntsville Museum of Art in cooperation with Josh Simpson Contemporary Glass. The Springfield showing of the exhibition is funded in part by the Art Alliance for Contemporary Glass.


(above: Josh Simpson, Iridescent Tektite, 1994, Meteorite formula glass with silver glass interior. Photo by Tommy Olof Elder)


(above: Josh Simpson, Megaplanet with Double Spiral, 2005. Photo by Tommy Olof Elder)


(above: Josh Simpson, Flower Vases, Paperweight, 1980s. Photo by Tommy Olof Elder)


(above: Josh Simpson, Tektite Portal, 2003, Meteorite formula glass surrounding hot worked crystal with cased inclusions. Photo by Tommy Olof Elder)

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