Bergstrom-Mahle Museum of Glass

BerstromMahler_CoverBY Jan Mirenda Smith and Jennifer Stevenson

Lyrical movement, dynamic design and brilliant color, come together with age old processes in the exhibit, Transcending Time: a Survey of Works in Glass by Italian Maestro Lino Tagliapietra October 8 through February 14 at Bergstrom-Mahler Museum of Glass in Neenah.

Lino, as he is affectionately known, is among the most admired and beloved glass artists living today. He has earned the title of the Maestro. His skills reflect a long Italian tradition in glass, using techniques and skills that date back six centuries. However, his attitude is forward thinking and contemporary, providing anything but an historic reference. It is this excitement and youthful exploratory outlook that has made the work of this 81 year old glassblower from Murano, highly sought and collectable. The artist himself has become a much treasured personality. It is also his passion about creating art from glass that has placed him in the enviable position of Maestro.

We used to come to this street to play, and one day, I saw a big fire and stopped and saw somebody making wonderful pieces, giant pieces, a lot of activity. I thought, “Unbelievable! This is beautiful.” At the time they were working with wood so there was a lot of smoke and ash, very exciting. I promised myself that one day, I would do something like this. – LT

Lino was born on the Island of Murano. Although it was known for centuries for its glassmaking traditions, Lino was not born into a glassmaking family. After the telling moment described, he went home and told his mother, “I want to be a glassblower.”

At age 11, much to her disappointment, he quit school and went to work in the glass factory. He began as an apprentice and did not even touch the glass for the first two years. Instead he was cleaning and sweeping and observing. However, ten years following this apprenticeship, he earned the title of Maestro, or master glass blower at the age of 25.

His skills elevated him through some of the most prestigious glasshouses, among them Vetreria Galliano Ferro, Venini and Co. He held the position of Artistic and Technical Director of Effetre International until 1989, when he focused more on his own artistic career.

His work exhibits unparalleled mastery, and today he is highly regarded as a teacher and mentor. During the Studio Glass Movement of the 1960’s, young, eager American artists were hungry for any bit of information to help tame this wild new, hot-art material.

In the early years of glass exploration Harvey Littleton, founder of the Studio Glass Movement, visited Murano to learn from the Italians, but found the secretive processes highly guarded. Dale Chihuly was among the many young Americans who, a decade later, went to Murano to learn glassmaking techniques and Richard Marquis studied there for two years as a Fulbright Scholar. What they learned, they brought back to the fledgling schools in the US. Historically, the Italians were reluctant to widely share their glassmaking skills, yet Lino held the opinion that if glassmaking was to survive, it needed to be shared by a new enthusiastic group that would embrace it and move it forward.

Lino was one of the artists of the skilled Italian glassworkers brought to Pilchuck Glass School in Washington State in 1978, most willing to share his centuries-old and highly-guarded glass secrets. He was invited to visit Pilchuck by artists Benjamin Moore and James Carpenter, who were working with Dale Chihuly. His openness has endeared him to American glass artists ever since, and he continues to come to lecture, teach and create.

Lino’s presence in the American studios has fostered a remarkable exchange of ideas, acceptance and risk. The resulting works by Lino, and the chances taken by other artists illustrate colorful and vibrant qualities breathing new life into an ancient, yet continually living material. Lino’s eloquent and exotic sculptural forms defy the use of the material and persuasively bring the forms into a 21st century language for a 21st century audience.

The exhibition for Bergstrom-Mahler Museum of Glass will reflect both his classic mastery and contemporary zeal for experimentation. It is this vitality that will attract audiences from outside the area to discover works of art that reflect not only the signature styles for which the artist is known, but current work that enthusiastically crosses the boundaries he previously established. The exhibition is uniquely scaled and organized for Bergstrom-Mahler Museum of Glass.

BerstromMahler_Pic2Object selections have been made in collaboration with the artist, his grandson Jacopo Vecchiato who now guides the company, Lino Tagliapietra, Incorporated in Seattle and Lino’s long-standing gallerists, Jim Schantz and Kim Saul, who are generously providing an exhibition catalog for museum distribution.

The exhibition will make use of the architecture of Bergstrom-Mahler Museum of Glass, incorporating the artist’s hanging blown, bird-like forms called Ala, mounted from the ceiling of the museum entrance. The installation will create immediate excitement as will the large vase-like sculptures with curvilinear long necks, called Dinosaurs. The artist has traveled and taught worldwide, and viewers will see this reflected in the titles as well, with inspired recent series like Osaka, Fuji, Kukubarra, Borneo and Masai.

Fifty works tell the story of the artist’s contemporary thinking and exploratory nature. They are shown in four exhibition spaces. From the foyer, visitors will view the extension of works on pedestals and in the eight wall exhibit cases reflecting “Classic Lino.” These will speak to the artist’s development and signature shapes that built his reputation and mastery.

Viewers will appreciate current work that will include suspended bird-like forms, wall arrangements, sculptural freestanding works and graceful forms called Fenice. His series are named with the same thoughtful reflection that goes into balancing the years of technique with spontaneity. Large blown glass works like Endeavor, are contrasted with newly created kiln-formed panels on steel stands made of murrini. The technique is reminiscent of that used to create paperweights, but the scale results in something similar to an abstract painting.

This work is colorful, bold and contemporary. The artist continues to redefine his career, so that encounters with the work continue also to be exciting for those who view it and for young art students aspiring to join the field and learn from him. The work becomes timeless and so does the Master.

Lino Tagliapietra will make a special appearance at Bergstrom-Mahler Museum of Glass in Neenah on Sunday, October 11, from 1 to 3 pm for the public opening of his exhibition, Transcending Time: a Survey of Works in Glass by Italian Maestro Lino Tagliapietra. All are welcome to join the artist for a gallery walk at 2 pm and a catalog signing afterward. Admission is free for everyone.

The public opening on October 11th is the culmination of a weekend-long event, Art in Motion which is a fundraiser for the museum where diverse passions for famous sports cars and contemporary glass are united. The event fuses our human desire for beauty and balance with a demand for precision and perfection and what results is a truly unique and inspiring experience to benefit education programs at Bergstrom-Mahler Museum of Glass in Neenah.

The Art in Motion event came about when museum executive director, Jan Smith, was helping her parents to downsize their home. Her Dad had a Jaguar in his garage that would be a perfect restoration project for the right person. She created a poster of the Jag and stopped at Motion Products of Neenah to leave one there. Motion Products, Inc. is a world renowned automotive facility specializing in European sports car restoration and maintenance.

Smith met co-owner Jim Wallner and what began as a casual conversation about the art of the automobile led to a two-hour tour of the facility and a discussion about a car tour hosted by Motion Products. Jan mentioned that she had heard of drives to benefit the arts and that she’d love to start one for Bergstrom-Mahler Museum of Glass. Jim said he would be happy to help organize one, and Art in Motion got wheels.

The Art in Motion weekend begins on Friday, October 9th, as European sports car enthusiasts join with contemporary glass artists and collectors to celebrate Art in Motion. While the two audiences initially may not appear to overlap, the mutual appreciation for sleek lines and fine finishes soon becomes apparent. At Liberty Hall in Kimberly guests will be entertained with dinner and discussion with Lino Tagliapietra and Wayne Obry, founder of Motion Products. The evening includes a live auction of glass objects donated by regional artists and a seven-day luxury tour of Italy which includes a private tour of Lino Tagliapietra’s studio on the Island of Murano and three nights at a Ferrari-themed resort in Maranello.

Saturday features a traditional autumn drive around the scenic Door County Peninsula hosted by Motion Products, but with a glass twist. Drivers will stop at two working glass studios. In Sturgeon Bay, they will be treated to a hot glass demonstration by husband and wife team, Jeremy Popelka and Stephanie Trenchard. After a drive up the peninsula and a turn down the lakeside, they will stop near Sister Bay at the K. Allen Gallery, hosted by Keith and Deanna Clayton, for a look at contemporary glass sculpture by regional artists. Drivers will finish the day at Bergstrom-Mahler Museum of Glass in Neenah to enjoy a walk with Lino Tagliapietra through his stunning exhibition.

Bergstrom-Mahler Museum of Glass Board Member and Ferrari enthusiast, David Woods commented, “What an exciting opportunity to experience one of the greatest glass artists in the world and to see some amazingly beautiful automobiles. The theme, ‘Art in Motion’ captures the interplay of design and an appreciation of the beauty of each artistic medium. It would be a unique opportunity anywhere in the world, and we are extremely fortunate to have it here in the Valley.”

The public is welcome to attend Art in Motion. Contact the museum at 920.751.4658 or go to to register.

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