Forged in Fire, Glass Exhibition Finds Home at Selby

Arts & Culture

BY ANDREW FABIAN SRQ DAILY FRIDAY WEEKEND EDITION FRIDAY SEP 4, 2020

The art of glass blowing requires a high level of comfort with infernal forces. It requires that one tiptoe around all degrees of burn as molten glass is shaped into exquisite objects in an abbreviated facsimile of volcanic processes. The medium is physical, dangerous and expensive, but in spite of these attributes, glass artist Duncan McClellan is not brutish or grave, nor does he find his inspiration in the dark and macabre. No, McClellan “is a happy artist, not an angsty one,” he says, a lover of nature and its growing things. And despite the dichotomy in energies between a hot shop and a green space, McClellan has found a home for his work at Selby Gardens.

“In Dialogue with Nature: Glass in the Gardens” represents the third installment of McClellan’s collaboration with the Gardens, and the relationship has proven to be symbiotic. “It’s just such a beautiful space,” says McClellan, “and I derive so much inspiration from it.” For the Gardens, it’s an opportunity to show off the abilities of its design team and continue to develop its image as a work of living art in its own right. “Their design staff really goes out of their way to complement the pieces,” says McClellan.

Like years past, this year’s edition features work from McClellan as well as some of the 120 artists that work out of his studio in St. Pete. Scattered throughout the grounds and within the galleries are some of his vases, recognizable for their egg shape and bright colors. Etched with exquisite line work and delicate color gradations, the vases feature images of nature at home in the lush foliage of the garden’s spaces. The collection speaks to some of the subtleties of McClellan’s craft, especially as it pertains to what is typically a team effort in the hot shop. “It usually takes 3-4 people to help me blow these pieces out,” he says, “but the detail work I do alone, so I get to experience the teamwork and enjoy some solitude too.”

McClellan’s Hibiscus Bowls series finds a surreal home in the Gardens’ koi pond, with pedestals hidden just beneath the pond’s surface that help create the illusion that the bowls are floating. The overall impression of the exhibition is a sense of timelessness, as though the glasswork was placed in the gardens long ago by a lost civilization. Perhaps the piece that most exemplifies that impression comes from artist Thomas Scoon, a series of three figures made of glass and stone that evoke the statues of Easter Island (pictured above).

The exhibition runs through September 20th, with the outdoor portions available for viewing during normal operating hours. Hours for indoor galleries vary.

Click here for more information.

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