Philly glass artists display work at River House Arts

River House Arts and Contemporary Art Toledo will present HUSH.ex, an exhibition of works in glass and mixed media by Megan Biddle, Amber Cowan, Jessica Jane Julius, and Sharyn O’Mara. The show opens with a public artists’ reception on Thursday, Sept. 15 from 6 to 9 p.m. and will be on view through Oct. 22, running concurrently with Hot Glass/Cool Music, a month-long community celebration of glass and music in Toledo.

HUSH.ex is the second iteration of a body of work that debuted last spring at the Philadelphia Art Alliance. Working over the course of a year, the artists, who are also colleagues on the glass faculty at Tyler School of Art, Temple University, created visually and conceptually diverse works that include site-specific installations as well as individual sculptures and drawings. At the outset, the artists recognized commonalities in their practice: reflection (literal and figurative) and distillation. They began with a collective desire to see past the overstimulus of the digital age and to focus on the analog, narrow the vocabulary from color to gray scale, and capture the power of memory and reflection in interpretation of experience. And yet, there is nothing simplistic either in the ambition or scope of any of the artists’ work.

This ambition and scope has not gone unnoticed. In the September 2016 edition of Glass Quarterly, Alexander Rosenberg writes. “It is uncommon to find the flashy and performative medium of glass used to express silence or solitude, but the four artists here offer a convincing alternative to the noise and hyper-connectivity of digital culture.”

Megan Biddle is an interdisciplinary artist whose work orbits between sculpture, installation, drawing and video. Rooted in glass, she produces experiment and process driven work with an emphasis on materials and their distinct characteristics. As an observer of nature she responds to the elusive and subtle, reflecting on variations of time, cycles of growth and erosion. She has exhibited nationally and internationally and her work was acquired into the American Embassy’s permanent collection in Riga, Latvia. She teaches in the Glass Program at Tyler School of Art of Temple University in Philadelphia,Pennsylvania.

Amber Cowan’s sculptural glasswork is based around the use of recycled, up-cycled, and second-life glass, usually American pressed glass from the 1940’s – 1980’s. She uses the processes of flameworking, hot-sculpting and glassblowing to create large-scale sculptures that overwhelm the viewer with ornate abstraction and viral accrual. With an instinctive nature towards horror vacui, her pieces reference memory, domesticity and the loss of an industry through the re-use of common items from the aesthetic dustbin of American design. Her work is in the permanent collections of The RISD Museum, The Corning Museum of Glass and The Shanghai Museum of Glass. She lives in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania where she teaches in the Glass Program at Tyler School of Art of Temple University.

Jessica Jane Julius’ objects, installations, and drawings reflect on the intangible environment – the multitude of surrounding elements in our environments that cannot be perceived through touch. Working in a wide variety of media including found, hot, and cold glass, flameworking, and rub-on dry transfer letters, her work attempts to make meaningful connections amidst the noise, to transform the intangible into tangible, and to create balance by applying chaos to order and order to chaos. Her work has been included in numerous national exhibitions including “Craft Spoken Here” at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. She lives in Philadelphia with her husband and son, and teaches in the Glass Program at Tyler School of Art of Temple University.

Sharyn O’Mara is a mixed-media artist whose drawings, installations, and sculptures exist outside of traditional disciplinary boundaries. Originally educated as a designer, her keen interest in written and spoken language provides the conceptual framework for her studio practice. Working with a broad range of materials such as glass, dog hair, optical fiber, and typewriter tape, her work is conceptually driven and process intensive. She has exhibited in the US and abroad. Her work is included in public and private collections including Corning Museum of Glass and the Arkansas Arts Center. She is Associate Professor and Program Head of Glass at Tyler School of Art of Temple University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where she lives with her husband, daughter, and three shepherds.

River House Arts located in the historic Secor Building at 425 Jefferson in Downtown Toledo, is a full service gallery offering exhibitions of modern and contemporary artists. Gallery hours are noon – 8 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and by appointment. (Special events are often scheduled in the gallery calling ahead is strongly recommended. 419-441-4025.)

Contemporary Art Toledo is a small collective of artists and arts professionals dedicated to the prospect of diversifying and challenging the local cultural landscape.