Pittsburgh Glass Artists: Making the Ordinary Extraordinary
Main Gallery
July 28 – November 12, 2017

Sixteen Pittsburgh Glass Center artists are represented in the exhibit Making the Ordinary Extraordinary. Their works display intense color, transparency, weight, strength, and fragility—showing the great depth and span of contemporary glass sculpture. An awe-inspiring and eye-opening experience awaits visitors as they experience ordinary materials transformed by the extraordinary perspective of these artists.

All the artists call Pittsburgh home, but most are originally from other locations around the country. They were drawn to Pittsburgh by the vision of Kathleen Mulcahy and her long-time partner in life, art, and community activism, Ron Desmett. Pittsburgh Glass Center, a nonprofit glass art school, gallery, and studio was co-founded by Kathleen and Ron in 2001. After witnessing economic revitalization driven by art in decaying neighborhoods in New York City and northern New Jersey, they wanted to transform their own city through the power of art. They envisioned a place where established artists could experiment with glass and create work beyond the capacity of their studios, while also welcoming novice artists to a new medium. Today, Pittsburgh Glass Center is one of the top glass art facilities in the United States, helping the city connect to its creative future through the innovative use of glass as art.

The works on exhibit range in scale from miniature to massive. Kathleen Mulcahy layers sheets of bent, variegated glass over panels of patinated steel, and adorns her massive wall hangings with delicate teardrops or pearl-like orbs of frosted glass. Margaret Spacapan subverts the iconography of the vessel through scale and contrasts the weight of concrete with the fragility of glass. Travis Rohrbaugh creates delicate skeletons of flying machines as ephemeral as the air they might inhabit. John Sharvin’s fanciful landscapes draw the viewer in to tiny habitats. Rebecca Smith uses the iconography of maps and globes to imagine planet Earth over the course of geologic time.

Making the Ordinary Extraordinary is dedicated to the vision of Ron Desmett. A contemporary sculptor who worked primarily with opaque black glass, his rough, dark, earthy, slumping forms allude to natural forms and cycles of decay and regeneration. They subvert the canons of craft and mock the sleek functionality of traditional art glass. His legacy continues in the work of the artists he inspired.

This exhibition was made possible by the Pittsburgh Glass Center and the sixteen artists represented. We are grateful to Pittsburgh Glass Co-founder Kathleen Mulcahy, Director Heather McElwee, and our Museum Studies Intern Mary Meckley for their assistance in curating and installing the exhibition. Many volunteers from Pittsburgh Glass Center and the Erie community also helped with the installation. Finally, Erie Art Museum thanks the artists, volunteers, donors, and staff who make all of our exhibitions and educational programming possible.