Don’t Break the Glass | 1974–2015

Rome, Italy

Rules and violence 

As a child I wanted to break the glass every time I saw a sign saying break the glass on a fire extinguisher. In this piece, I drove a nail through glass and hammered it to the wall. I redid these works again as a fundraiser for ‘Community against Violence’.

Artist’s glass has life of its own

By Mark Jenkins, Washington Post

Yellow Hook
Yellow Hook

Mary Shaffer’s sculpture relies on oppositions: soft vs. hard, light vs. dark, clean vs. corroded. But the appearances of her principal materials — glass and metal — are more different than their actual natures. The glass that appears to flow is actually just as solid as the frames, hooks and tongs to which it’s attached. And the processes of making the clear or colored material — hot glass or slumped glass — are as industrial as manufacturing steel.

Reflections and Contradictions: Five Decades, Shaffer’s retrospective at the American University Museum, savors these incongruities. The selection, which dates to 1972, includes pieces in which glass poses as water, fabric or an icicle dripping from a rusted metal wheel. Although the patina emphasizes the bulk and strength of the metal pieces, the glass catches the light, making it appear weightless, mutable and alive.

Shaffer, who works in Texas and New Mexico, started as a painter, and two of her 1970s drawings are included here. There also are In the galleries: Artist’s glass has life of its own four pieces from a series in which undulating clear-glass diamonds bracket simple silver-metal shapes, rare examples of the artist’s work in which glass plays a supporting role. More often, though, it dominates, even when a small dab of the seemingly fluid material is attached to a large metal object. The found industrial pieces suggest the world as it stubbornly is; the glass evokes change, possibility and, well, art.

Mary Shaffer: Reflections and Contradictions: Five Decades American University Museum, Washington DC
September 12 through October 18, 2015

Mary’s Tools @ OK Harris NYC

Mary Shaffer’s sixth exhibition with the prestigious New York gallery after a 25-year hiatus.


Returning to her “Tool Series” for the show titled Mary’s Tools, Shaffer combines metal tools, often hand-forged, with slumped glass–plate glass bent in a kiln, or hot glass molded through a process she calls “dippy-do,” in which the object is dipped into a crucible of molten glass. The results are often whimsical, even lyrical.

“I love making this work,” says Mary. “Each found tool, discarded and no longer useful to our present society, talks about a time when families were living on the land and many were self-sufficient; to a time when our connection to the earth was strong and vital.” She says this work reminds her that we’ve lost that connection to nature and the awareness that our stewardship of the earth is paramount to our continued survival as a species.

Mary lives in Marfa, TX, and Taos, NM, both small towns with a strong artistic culture and an environmentally sensitive community that influence her work. Her storefront studio in Marfa has become a popular stop for visitors exploring the galleries and museums of this creative town.

OK Harris was founded by the legendary Ivan Karp, the cigar-smoking, witty art dealer who discovered Andy Warhol and established the Photorealist movement, launching painters like Richard Estes and figurative sculptor Duane Hanson. Shaffer started exhibiting with Ivan in the early 1970’s. Mary says, “When Ivan sold a piece of mine, he would give me all the money, saying, you need this. He was right!”

USA Simon Fellow 2009

Mary Shaffer is recognized as one of the founding artists of the American Studio Glass Movement. She studied painting at the Rhode Island School of Design in the 1960s. In the 1970s, she developed a unique technique adapted from the auto industry, which she calls “mid-air slumping.” It allows her to use gravity to soften plate glass into a form, which she often combines with metal tools. Her sculptures range in scale from small objects to room-size installations and public works.

– United States Artists web site

With Susan and Leonard Nimoy at the ceremony.
With Susan and Leonard Nimoy at the United States Artist award ceremony
with Leonard Nimoy
with Leonard Nimoy
Rahim AlHai, Mary Shaffer, and Richard T. Notkin
Musician & USA Ford Fellow, Rahim AlHai, Mary Shaffer, and Artist &
USA Hoi Fellow Richard T. Notkin

These two images by Brant Brogan

KBLU-FM | Kathryn M. Davis Interview


Tuesday, March 13, 2007

ArtBeat’s Kathryn Davis spoke with Mary Shaffer about the exhibition Visions 1970 – 2007, on display at the Gerald Peters Gallery, Santa Fe, NM, March 1 to March 31, 2007.

Kathryn M. Davis, art historian, Art of the Americas, MA, University of New Mexico, specializes in modern and contemporary art theory in American art. She has taught art history at The College of Santa Fe, the University of Tennessee, and Santa Fe’s Center for Contemporary Art. Ms. Davis has over a decade of experience in the field of modern and contemporary art theory, and is currently writing art criticism for local and national publications.

Click here to listen to Kathy Davis’ 7:18 minute interview with Mary Shaffer. (6.7 MB mp3)

      KBLU-FM Kathryn M. Davis Interview - ArtBeat

KUHF-FM | Alison Young Interview

The Front Row

Monday, May 9, 2005

The Front Row’s Alison Young spoke with Mary Shaffer as they walked through the exhibition Reflected Light.

Click here to listen to Alison Young’s 7:25 minute interview with Mary Shaffer. (3 MB mp3)

      KUHF-FM Alison Young Interview - The Front Row