This first comprehensive work on Mary Shaffer illuminates her radical life and art, from a single mother in the '70s entering the male-dominated world of glass art to the renowned master she is today. A pioneering figure in the American Studio Glass Movement, she expanded the art form with her innovative mid-air slumping technique, which uses gravity to create flowing, organic shapes from glass. Nearly 200 photos covering four decades feature her iconic slumped and cast glass art, as well as large outdoor sculptures, conceptual installations, and commissioned pieces.
Personal stories shed light on integral figures, moments, and developments in studio glass art throughout her career, giving rare insider insight to artists, students, and collectors. A foreword by Jane Adlin and contributions from Lucy R. Lippard and William Warmus delve further into Shaffer's artistic philosophy and legacy—one rooted in dissolving the binaries of liquid/solid, female/male, intangible/tangible, personal/political.
Shaffer is an important influence in the American Studio Glass Movement. Her work is featured in collections worldwide.
Her honors include receiving a USA Fellow Grant by United States Artists, three National Endowment for the Arts awards, and the Glaspreis from the Kassel Competition in Germany. Shaffer was among the first group of four to receive the Visionary Award from the Museum of Arts and Design in 1995. She lives in Taos, New Mexico, and Marfa, Texas.
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8" x 10" x 7/8 ", hard cover
181 color and b/w images, 160 pages
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Honest Shapes and Arrested Motion:
A Conversation with Mary Shaffer
February 3, 2022 by Jean Lawlor Cohen
Mary Shaffer, since her early days at RISD, has moved from painting to installation and sculpture, from experimentation to mastery. A new book, Behind the Curtain: The Glass Art of Mary Shaffer, recounts this journey and its various tangents, focusing on conceptual work and large-scale installations, as well as Shaffer’s signature glass works created with her innovative “mid-air slumping” technique. The artist—who lives and works in Santa Fe and Marfa—speaks with self-deprecating wit about the creative impulse: in her case, the embrace of paradox, “dissolving the binaries of liquid/solid, female/male, intangible/tangible, personal/political.”
Interview by Mike Tilly KCEI, Aug 2019
OK Harris NYC 1974, Providence, RI 1974, Rome 1973
Power of opposites
I believed that every point in time was equal to every other and that opposites are similar.
In Rome the construction sites used a green plastic mesh to cover the facades of buildings while work was being done. It was thought to be non-flammable so I decided to burn it up using electronic heating elements, the kind used in electric stoves. I found straight ones that would glow red hot. Because I was using high voltage the structure of the heating elements had to be done in three phase. 3 phase means that each electric ‘leg’ had to be in balance, or using as much electricity as each of the other two ‘legs’. So it becomes a balanced structure.
“Fire-Laundry” was exhibited at OK Harris in NYC with the electrical structure and a faked electrical box on the wall. I also had a tape recording of the sounds of the non-flammable material burning—it sounded like electronic music.
Rome, Italy 1975
Locating an exact time
I wondered how someone could communicate an exact time, what that would look like. I decided I would have to find a group of stars that pointed to a place in space by their pattern and structure. Since the universe is moving outward, the stars’ alignment would also denote an exact time. I was surprised to learn there were no three-dimensional maps of the universe then. The work was published in Rome along with that of other conceptual artists.
Providence, RI 1972