There exists a romantic image of the solitary artist, the sensitive misfit, working alone in the studio, standing at the easel half drunk on booze and 100 percent intoxicated with life. This is the archetype of the artist as the lone explorer out on the hero’s quest to travel into the unknown. Going inward to the realm of imagination or circling outward to find new perspectives on the ordinary, the artist makes the quest. From this solo journey, the artist returns with treasure for us all: new ways of seeing and experiencing that bring vitality to our existence and fill the ordinary with a magical presence.
The artist as the lone visionary is the norm. While it is not unusual for teams of people to work on an artistic product, those efforts are usually determined by the vision of one mastermind. Artists that work together in true collaboration are a rarity.
The output of work by the artistic duo Joey Kirkpatrick and Flora C. Mace, however, is an example of true, equally balanced collaboration at all stages of a work from conception to completion. The Seattle-based pair has been working together for almost four decades. Their prolific output of art has gone through many changes. A large, lavish retrospective of their work is currently on view at the Museum of Glass. Called “Every Soil Bears Not Everything,” the exhibit features an abundance of work from every phase of the collaborative career of Kirkpatrick and Mace.
The two were introduced to each other by Dale Chihuly in the summer of 1979 when at Stanwood WA’s Pilchuck School of Glass. Kirkpatrick was interested in translating her drawings onto glass and Chihuly introduced her to Mace, who was working in a similar direction. The result was a series of glass cylinders with images of dolls, kites, and other figures. For five years the pair worked to make the “wire drawing cylinders” more precise and colorful. From there, the two continued to combine their imaginations and talents to explore new ideas and media. Glass elements, such as white, doll-like heads, were combined with wood and other materials to make sculptures akin to Alaskan tribal figurines. Other works combine woven frameworks of alder wood with glass vessels that represent water or the internal organs of the body.
Beginning in the 1990s, the pair began to create oversized replicas of fruits and vegetables in blown glass, done in vivid colors and dazzling visual patterns. Then came painting on glass in series like thick slabs of glass done with paintings of birds and clear glass cylinders decorated with animals and flowers.
The show includes delicate paintings of birds on large sheets of paper and some wonderfully masterful paintings of sections of cordwood that are memorable. One gallery of the museum is filled with a botanical series in which whole plants have been preserved in thick rectangles of glass.
“Every Soil,” is a big show full of remarkable treasures that have come about from the fruitful, long-term partnership of Kirkpatrick and Mace. Everything seems to draw the eye and there is so much of it. The show is so big and so good that it is difficult to take it all in on one visit.
“Every Soil Bears Not Every Thing,” runs through May 15. For further information visit museumofglass.org.