Thursday, September 1, 2011

Josiah McElheny - Glass Blower Artist

Note from the author: I wrote this in college for an art criticism class.  I have cited my references and hope you will always do that same.  Copyright infringement is NO good.  If you click on the images it will take you to the website I took them from.  Also, please do not use this as your own paper.  Cheating is NO good.

Josiah McElheny – Glass Blower
            Josiah McElheny stands apart from his art contemporaries as a trained hands-on artist who puts meaning behind his works.  McElheny is a New York based artist who creates works of beautiful hand blown glass.   His[1]He reacts to art and culture of both the past and the present.  McElheny’s glassblowing techniques and his stylistic elements create a unique venture from his contemporaries as he turns ideas into productions.
            Josiah McElheny, a MacArthur fellow, [2]honing his skills, and becoming a master himself, possessing a familiarity with methods that date back centuries.
McElheny uses his craft as he continues to explore what has become his primary field of interest in recent years: questioning the legacy of Modernism and probing the very function of art—its use in a world in which our relation to objects is almost exclusively that of consumers rather than of producers.[3]  He himself often follows the Modernist idea that process and materials dictate form.[4]
One of McElheny's real strengths is creating visually enthralling pieces, as well as involving complex ideas about modernity, history, and science.[5]

Many of McElheny’s pieces try to tap into central human questions of who we are and where we come from; what, if anything, is original about us—of our own aspirations in a confusing world, full of endless ideologies and competing influences.[7] “Politically, I’m against finding the single answer,” McElheny insists. “I’m more interested in what these questions mean to our sense of who we are.[8]
He does not believe in creating “original” art, because all of his work is derived from some previous source, and what he’s doing is re-imagining something or shifting or transforming it slightly but always very much in connection to its source.  He is interested in the past, especially because art is essentially a physical remnant of a moment.[9] His desire is to bring these objects and ideas and contexts into the modern world.  The way in which he does so is by masterfully creating these seductive, reflective pieces that are so attractive to the general public.  He believes that in today’s materialistic society that if something is to be of value then it has to have a kind of gravity and importance to it.  He gets the viewer into his works with his highly or all-reflective objects, because the viewer sees himself in it.  In other ways he tries to create a perfect, pristine utopian feel to his works.[10]
 I believe his works accomplish all that McElheny sets out to do concerning his artistic methodologies.  McElheny’s works are intoxicating to look at and to study.  They capture and awe you.  I am greatly impressed with his research and training. Very few artists today seem to care about expertise or craftsmanship, especially those who remove their hands completely from the production process.  I personally think that art has been slandered and defaced by contemporary artists who love pushing the limits of art.  I believe there should be a mastering of craft and skill.  Because of McElheny and other 20th and 21st Century glass-blowers, glass-blowing can no longer been seen only as a craft or a trade.  McElheny has emphasized the materiality of glass in a very Greenbergian fashion of Modernism, and done so powerfully. 
His works are not about “sticking it to the man” or using common everyday materials in new ways just to make art.  He creates legitimate, beautiful, stand alone works that aren’t about making art for art’s sake.  They are about something.  He reacts to art and culture of both the past and present, but does so with a real honed and learned skill.  This makes him and his works unique.

Programs. Performed by Josiah McElheny. 2005.
 Browne, Alex. "The Big Picture." New York Times, September 26, 2008: MM64.
Hixson, Kathryn. "Glass, Apprenticeship, and Josiah McElheney." New Art Examiner, 2001: 72.
mcelheny_en.html (accessed Oct 22, 2009).

Tarlow, Lois. "Profile: Josiah McElheny." ArtNew England, Ag/S 2002: 21-23.

Volk, Gregory. "An Infinity of Objects." Art in America, 2006: 166-169.

[1] Lois Tarlow, "Profile: Josiah McElheny," Art New England, Ag/S 2002: 22
[2]  Lois Tarlow, "Profile: Josiah McElheny," Art New England, Ag/S 2002: 21.
[3] Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia,”Josiah McElheny-A Space for an Island Universe,”  January 28, 2009; available from Internet;  accessed June 11, 2009).
[4] Kathryn Hixson, "Glass, Apprenticeship, and Josiah McElheney," New Art Examiner, 2001: 72.
[5] Lois Tarlow, "Profile: Josiah McElheny," Art New England, Ag/S 2002: 21.
[6] Ibid.
[7] Gregory Volk, "An Infinity of Objects," Art in America, 2006: 169
[8] Alex Browne, "The Big Picture," New York Times, September 26, 2008: MM64.
[9] Art: 21--Art in the Twenty-First Century Season 3, Episode: "Memory," Directed by PBS Home Programs; performed by Josiah McElheny, 2005.
[10] Ibid.

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