Marlene Rose grew up with art all around her. Her mother was a painter and her father a sculptor of found objects. Her education furthered her interest in art, both at the Promfret School in Connecticut, then her study of visual mediums at Tulane University in New Orleans. Coming into her own as an artist, she developed her unique style.
Marlene Rose’s sculptures are arresting in their beauty, while at the same time seem to resonate illusions in glass to other cultures and civilizations. Rose seems to have discovered a profound way to connect the past and the present. Her work has an immediacy that transcends time and space. To be in the presence of her work is to feel connected to a continuum that started thousands of years ago on earth and millions of light years ago in the universe.
Art Business News had the opportunity recently to ask her a few questions about her art, inspirations and goals for the future.
ABN: When did you first become involved with art? And how did you get involved with glass?
Rose: I have always regarded myself as an artist. From schooldays on I danced and painted and made things. I played sport, team sport, very competitively, and it is interesting how all these things melded for me.
I went to college in New Orleans and studiously avoided the hot shop, where they blow glass. I guess I was a bit intimidated, and pretty shiny glass didn’t really appeal. The whole glass-making thing back then was a very male-dominated, and very physical. So, I kept away.
But towards the end of my studies the Professor said something that has been with me ever since. He said, “I’ll show you how to blow vessels and make pretty shiny things, and get that out of the way. Then I am going to show you how to cast glass, and show you how to make art.” I was hooked.
It all came together. Glass-making is a team endeavor, I knew all about being a team member or leading a team. I wasn’t scared of physical labor. And I wanted to make art. Right there I decided the guys had better stand back, I was going to do it!
So then, and now, I make sandcast glass sculptures.
ABN: What inspires your work – where do your ideas come from? An artist, a culture, a period of time?
Rose: All of my work, whether figurative or abstract, has a spiritual aspect to it. Looking East was inevitable as the paintings, calligraphy, architecture, even the clothing of the East seems to share that common quality. While the Buddha faces that I’m known for are inspired by Buddhas from Vietnam, China and India, the concept of the face itself has come to mean much more to me. It seems that the imagery transcends culture and appeals to a universal common thread in humanity, of the striving to be bigger than oneself, and to dissolve the man-made barriers between cultures and peoples.
These threads of human imagery, passing through cultures and time inspire me. I am compelled to weave and recompose their nuances, all to communicate the immortal vibrancy of the human spirit. The glass may look like a relic of some ancient time, but each piece holds inside itself the sum of the sharp shards of what I have seen, of unnamed emotions, of visions, concepts and memories.
ABN: Why glass? Why this process? I have read the description you sent about the process, but I guess the question revolves around how did you come to discover the process and what draws you to it.
Rose: I am a glass artist. More specifically, a sandcast glass artist.
I pour liquid molten glass into sand molds I have carefully prepared. It is in the ancient tradition of all metal casting, going back thousands of years to the Ages of Iron and Bronze. Indeed, the Romans and Phoenicians and many others too, took this technique and used it to make made glass.
But glass in this ancient tradition tended to be made only on an industrial scale. It was just in the 1980’s that the heating and (very) controlled cooling of the glass became viable on a Studio level, where individual artists could create their own unique pieces of art.
My teacher, Gene Koss in New Orleans, learnt this technique of casting glass from one of the founders of the American Studio Glass Movement, and I am very fortunate to have been introduced to this unique technique while it was in its infancy.
The technique differs from the blown glass with which we are all familiar. It is far closer to the fine-art tradition of casting objects, something which appealed to my artistic sensibilities more than the craft-based tradition of blown glass. Gene always said that a piece had to work as a sculpture first, and that if it should look good no matter what it was made from. Glass gives a very special aspect of life to the work. Glass changes all the time, depending on the light that flows through it, and it is the changing light in which we live which gives us its subtle inner beauty.
ABN: What are your goals for today? For the future?
Rose: Keep making high quality art which evokes an emotional response in the viewer.
We appreciate the time with Marlene—her goals sum up a career built with the future always in mind. We can’t wait to see her next compelling collection.
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