For glass artists Eric Hess and Kevin McKay, making beauty is shard work
JEF TINGLEY | Contributing Writer
Mention the movie Ghost to most people, and images of that sexy potter’s wheel scene are sure to come to mind. But it’s not just clay artists who get to lay claim to racy, evocative art forms sculpted from the earth’s resources. Whether sticking it in a “hot glory hole” (the industry term for a kiln opening) before blowing, or grinding down the sharp edges for a fused piece, glass artists have the ability to take something once gritty and transform it into smooth, polished perfection glistening like a million points of light.
Local artist Eric Hess started out working in mixed media, but after one trip to a friend’s sand casting studio he decided to focus exclusively on glass as his medium. Once the decision was made, he sold his advertising agency and began undergraduate work with artist Gene Koss at Tulane University honing his craft. He later transferred to a program at University of Texas at Arlington working in the Master of Fine Arts program with artist Justin Ginsberg.
“I enjoy the transformation of the glass medium inherent in art making. I utilize glass as a medium because of its unique qualities. Glass is transitional. The advantage to using glass is its ability to draw the viewer in. It is multi-dimensional — it reflects, transmits and refracts light,” says Hess. “Most of my art is developed through experimentation. I am constantly developing new approaches to utilizing glass as an art form. My recent work is an extensive exploration of how video and images can be distorted through glass and how glass can be reflected off of glass. Utilizing various mixed media such as ice, wood, steel and paint, I am developing works that are dramatic and evocative.”
Hess also uses art to address issues and open a dialogue about topics. His piece Hate Crime depicts a brass cross with the words “hate crime” written on the candles.
“It was designed to bring focus on how the Catholic churches discriminates against our [LGBT] community, and it also highlights the fact that the crucifixion of Christ was also a hate crime,” Hess says.
Unlike Hess, Kevin McKay — a teacher of visual arts at Stevens Park Elementary — works with fused glass. Like Hess, however, McKay says that it’s glasses ability to reflect and play with light that makes it his medium of choice. But handling shards of glass can come with its downside.
“You bleed a lot more than anything else,” McKay confesses. “But working with glass allows you to create sculpture, mosaics, painting, all kinds of things, depending on where you’re imagination takes you.”
For McKay, that imagination and inspiration comes from iconic glass artists such as Dale Chihuly. For Hess, it’s Bertil Vallien, Marcel Duchamp, Mel Chin and Eva Hesse that fuel his creative fire. But both agree that just as they stumbled upon the craft, it’s exciting to know there’s a next generation of glass artists who one day might be inspired by their work… and might be firing up a glory hole in their honor.
Eric Hess’ works have been shown at the New Orleans Museum of Art and at various group shows in New Orleans. You can see more of his creations at TheSouthernArtGallery.com.
Kevin McKay’s works can be seen in Dallas in the Pettigrew Showroom, 1805 Market Center Blvd.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 27, 2015.