By Kevin Coughlin
One usually associates the title “maestro” with revered orchestra conductors.
But everyone refers to glass master Lino Tagliapietra as maestro, too, and if you visit the Morris Museum you’ll understand why.
More than 30 of his works are on display through June 2017 at the museum in Morris Township. The awe-inspiring colors are like something from a NASA probe of the solar system.
“Glass is magic, absolutely, magic,” Tagliapietra said at the show’s opening on Saturday. He conjures this magic from thin air . . . and a few other things.
“We use all the elements. We use air, we use fire, we use water.”
Tagliapietra was born 82 years ago on the Venetian island of Murano, home to several prominent glass factories. His father sometimes took him to the Venini & Co. factory instead of to kindergarten, he recalled.
“At the time, we practically breathed glass…when we were kids we played with the glass,” Tagliapietra said. Family members talked glass the way others might debate the merits of favorite soccer players.
Slideshow photos by Kevin Coughlin
A glass master by age 21, Tagliapietra spent the next four decades working for top factories. He went solo in the 1980s, experimenting with American glass artists in Seattle and evolving from decorative vessels and bowls to more abstract pieces. Two-dimensional glass wall hangings are perhaps his most stunning works in the Morris Museum show.
“The boldness of his vision is why he’s so widely celebrated, married with that technical virtuosity. It’s this combination of tradition and innovation that really sets Lino apart from pretty much anybody else working in glass,” said Andrew Page, managing editor of GLASS Quarterly. Page will give a talk about Tagliapietra at the museum on April 23.
Great glass art, like other fine arts, is about conveying emotion and energy, Tagliapietra believes.
“We each have the beauty, the energy, to transfer to other people,” he said.
Tagliapietra’s energy shows few signs of waning, according to Page.
When the editor asked if he ever contemplated retirement, the maestro replied: “You know, for me to work is to live.”
It appears he still has much to live for.
In recent years, Tagliapietra has collaborated with the MIT Glass Lab to search for new methods for glass artistry.
He’s also an avid historian of glass —the ancient Romans made beautiful glass, he said– and an advocate for improving technical skills.
“The craftsmanship is lower than in the 18th- or 17th century,” the maestro said. Why? “Because we don’t work so much with the hands.”
Lino Tagliapietra: Maestro of a Glass Renaissance runs through June 18, 2017, at 6 Normandy Heights Road. See the Morris Museum website or call 973-971-3710 for museum hours and prices. These special programs are part of the exhibition:
The Luxurious Art of Glass: A History
Wednesday, March 15, 2 pm
Virginia Fabbri Butera, PhD, explores the art of glass making from Ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia to Lino Tagliapietra and the Seattle glass scene today.
The Magic of Glass Through Time
Wednesday, April 19, 2 pm
Discover the varied uses of glass through the ages with Patricia Elaine, owner of the Morris County School of Glass.
From Murano to Seattle: Lino Tagliapietra’s Journey
Sunday, April 23, 1 pm
Andrew Page, editor of GLASS: The UrbanGlass Art Quarterly, discusses the life and art of glass master Lino Tagliapietra.
Tickets: Free for Museum Members; $5 plus Museum admission for Non-Members.
Ladies’ Night Out: Meet us in Murano
Wednesday, April 26, 6:30-8:30 pm
In celebration of the exhibition: Italian-themed light fare and cocktails, a curator-led tour, shopping. Proceeds benefit the Museum.
Tickets: $40 Non-Members; $30 Museum Members; $20 Students/Teachers.
An Exploration of the Art of Lino Tagliapietra
Wednesday, May 17, 2 pm
Join Co-Curator Jim Schantz for a walking tour of the exhibition. Schantz has represented and known the artist for more than 20 years.