When Art and Science Converge
A musician has just discovered a new chord.
This is how Albert Paley feels while working with specialty glass. Albert, an American sculptor who works primarily with metal, has spent more than 40 years creating a prolific body of work that includes large-scale pieces such as the Portal Gates for the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. Currently, he is an artist-in-residence at the Corning Museum of Glass (CMoG), where he is integrating two specific types of Corning Incorporated glass into his metal work.
“Specialty glass opens up another dimension I have never explored,” he says.
For more than 15 years, Albert has incorporated glass and metal in a body of sculpture; however, this residency experience is different. Often, when metal and glass are joined, he says, the metal holds a vessel-shaped piece of glass, explaining that in such works, “glass is a secondary material.”
“I’ve always tried deliberately not to create a hierarchy,” he explains. “Instead, I aim for a synergy, where one material expresses the other.”
Albert is using this approach in the CMoG residency, but with an added benefit: With specialty glass, he can place the metal inside the glass.
“Physically embedding metal into glass creates a whole additional dialogue of transparency, optics, and reflection,” he says.
Albert is the first artist selected in this inaugural program — a collaboration between CMoG and Corning — that will support artists in adapting specialty glass materials for the creation of new work.
“The process in the early stages of scientific exploration is very similar to the aesthetic process an artist uses,” says Glen Cook, a Corning senior research associate, who will become the chief scientist at CMoG in January. “Both make careful observations and try new experiments before they reach the synthesis stage.”
Corning, which has developed and patented more than 150 specialty glass formulations, will provide the resident artist with access to specialty glass and staff with technical expertise in glass formulation.
“We are dedicated to innovation and experimentation with glass, and have a long history of collaborating with artists,” said David Morse, executive vice president and chief technology officer of Corning. “We look forward to continuing this tradition and are eager to see how artists will use these specialty materials, and perhaps even add to our understanding of their capabilities and adaptability.”
CMoG will provide access to its extensive resources, including glassmaking facilities and library collection. Resident artists will work closely with the Museum’s glassmakers, curators, and other staff to better understand the historical and artistic contexts of glass.
“Albert is an ideal artist to inaugurate the residency because of his focus on material and form,” says Karol Wight, executive director of CMoG.
Most of Albert’s metal forms deal with complexity. Whether it’s a geometric form next to an organic one, or a hollow form next to a linear one, he regularly deals with contrast, he explains. That’s one reason he feels comfortable integrating glass with metal. Another reason is that while the two materials are different, their forms are both derived from heat.
Albert will primarily use a borosilicate glass that was engineered to bond tightly to a metal alloy. He also will investigate high-purity fused silica, which can be shaped and joined with a torch, similar to the way Paley works with metal.