Saint John: Harness the dream in ToledoWritten by Kc Saint John | | SYLT@toledofreepress.com
t took just three hours of focused energy by a small team of visiting artists at The Toledo Museum of Art to find great success. In the Glass Pavilion a few months ago, I watched a team of artists working in the studio at one of the Friday night demonstrations and was absolutely taken away by what they were doing; using the glass as a form of expression. Michael Angelo Menconi and Charles Lowrie had worked with glass independently for more than a decade before their paths crossed, but when they did, it must have been like the world stopped — they are both masters of glass and combining their shared passion has allowed them to take lead of the American Contemporary Glass Movement.
“We like to work together with a team of the best professionals in the glass studio that Mike and I have hand-picked from across the USA, because glass is ‘being’ in the state of the fluidity and with this team the possibilities are absolutely endless,” Lowrie said.
When I was watching, I was excited to see what they were going to make with such a talented team. “What was it going to be?” I asked myself. “A vase, a bowl, a chandelier?” I came to the conclusion that these guys were real artists because not only were they doing some of the most technical moves I have ever seen, but they were going in a direction that I had never seen. At first Lowrie was on one side of the studio and Menconi was on the other; it appeared to me as though they were just working with their own teams on their own projects.
About two hours into the project they assembled into one large team like Optimus Prime from “Transformers” to put the pieces together as one; it was the true definition of collaboration.
At one end of the studio one piece looked like a comet blasting through space, and at the other side was a very detailed human figure about to ride the comet. The figure was made out of Dichroic glass, ironically a material developed by NASA for the shields on the space suits.
It was becoming clear why the title of the piece was “Harnessing the Dream,” with the comet as a metaphor of the dream and the figure the one harnessing it. The crowd was blown away.
“We are all living our dream right now by being here in the museum doing this demonstration,” Menconi said.
I have never seen such an amazing display of skill and true expressionism happen right before my eyes; the question was, how much is something of this caliber worth?
Lowrie and Menconi chose to donate the piece to The National Liberty Museum in Philadelphia for its annual fundraiser to promote nonviolence and acceptance of others by showing visitors that freedom is “fragile,” like glass.
At the live auction, after numerous people bid on this piece, the final price maxed at $14,500 and sold to a private art collector. I know what you’re thinking: “$14,500 for three hours’ work? Sign me up!” It’s actually more than three hours’ work because there are hours of polishing followed by the custom production of an aesthetically pleasing steel frame. With almost 20 years of experience, they both attribute their success to a great team with a great attitude.
This piece is one of 99 in a series called “Transcensions” created by Lowrie and Menconi. Thirty-three of these masterpieces will not be available for purchase and are slated for an international museum exhibition in 2012, while the others will be available for purchase by museums and private collections.
I sometimes go down into the quiet studio and think how awesome it was to have the opportunity to watch what Lowrie and Menconi did that evening. I truly believe they captured the energy that building was intended to facilitate, to push the limits of what can be done in making world-class art. It makes me excited for the future of my own work, the future of the glass pavilion and the future of Toledo.
If you want to see more on the “Transcensions” series, visit www.transcensions.com where you can find links to Lowrie’s and Menconi’s personal websites, but I also recommend a YouTube and Web search for Lowrie and Menconi’s videos — they are incredible. Also, during the week, the Toledo Museum of Art has glass demonstrations and some Fridays it hosts a national artist — and it’s always free.
Kc Saint John is a glass artist and fire-breather who enjoys teaching and creating with a focus in glass. He works to develop talent and promote unity and information within the community. Kc owns Lost Peninsula Arts & Glass; a music/art school and gallery and manages The Glass Dojo, a collaborating artists’ group. Visit www.kcsaintjohn.com.