In Morris Museum exhibition, Lino Tagliapietra captures nature in glass

PHOTOS BY RUSSELL JOHNSON

“Angel Tear,” by Lino Tagliapietra, is part of the exhibition “Lino Tagliapietra: Maestro of a Glass Renaissance,” which is at the Morris Museum through June 18.

“Glass is a very old material, a natural material that relates to life,” glass artist Lino Tagliapietra has said; the quote is included in the catalog of the Morris Museum’s current exhibit, “Lino Tagliapietra: Maestro of a Glass Renaissance.”

Viewing the 30-plus objects in the exhibit, it’s easy to get a sense of what he means. His “Londra,” for instance, looks like a huge, brightly colored egg. In the intricately detailed “Stella di Neve,” he has created leaves out of glass. In “Dinosaur,” pictured below, he suggests the contours of a dinosaur’s long neck with glass.

The components of his “Masai” made me think of feathers, though I later learned they were modeled on the shields of the Masai people of Africa. And a piece that I, at first, assumed to be an attempt to evoke the pupil and iris of an eye turned out to be named “Ombelico del Mondo” (Italian for “navel of the world”).

Tagliapietra, now 82 and living in Washington state, grew up in Italy’s Murano islands, and learned the basics of glass-making there. As the documentary “The Time of Lino” — which is screened continuously as part of the exhibition — shows, though, he has never been content to make his glass art the traditional way, but is constantly coming up with new techniques, and is revered in the glass art community for doing so. (To watch some of “The Time of Lino,” see the clip below.)

“Dinosaur,” by Lino Tagliapietra, is part of the “Lino Tagliapietra: Maestro of a Glass Renaissance” exhibition.

Rarely do you see such a vivid imagination matched with such a mastery of complex artistic technique.

One of the fascinating things about Tagliapietra’s work is that while it takes elaborate planning to work with molten glass — you can’t just make it up as you go along — the flowing shapes and bold colors of these pieces give them the illusion of wildness and spontaneity.

It’s as if he is able to reduce the natural world to its essence, and freeze it, miraculously, in glass.

“Lino Tagliapietra: Maestro of a Glass Renaissance” will be at the Morris Museum in Morris Township through June 18.

Also, “Ladies’ Night Out: Meet Us in Murano” takes place at 6:30 p.m. April 26, with Italian-themed finger food and cocktails, a curator-led tour of the exhibition, and vendors.

And co-curator Jim Schantz, who has represented and known Tagliapietra for more than 20 years, will give a walking tour of the exhibition titled “An Exploration of the Art of Lino Tagliapietra,” May 17 at 2 p.m.

For information, visit morrismuseum.org.

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