William Morris: Glass as a Sculptural Medium

William Morris, Mazorca Installation, 99 x 22 x 22, Blown Glass

William Morris, one of the world’s most highly regarded glass sculptors, is presenting his Magnus Opus, the “Mazorca Installation” at Bill Lowe Gallery in Atlanta.  This totemic presentation of eighty-four hand-blown glass sculptural elements is the seminal example of allusions to cultural artifacts that define his vocabulary.  The installation contains items such as tribal masks, insects, vegetation, and animals, all of which demonstrate the range of skill and craft from his instinctive abilities.

William Morris’s vision and his mastery of media have led to immense success throughout his career.  His work has been exhibited across the globe since 1981 and is represented in almost every important collection of glass in the world, including private and public collections.  Prominent among these are the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, The Jewish Museum in San Francisco, Seattle Art Museum, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C.

Capturing the essence of an object is often an idea that cannot physically manifest without an intellectual or psychological understanding of the object’s symbolism. William Morris captures the implicit beauty of artifacts from past cultures, tribes, stories, and rituals and suspends the spirit of those entities into our present reality.

With the use of molten hot glass, Morris manipulates each item with force and grace, much like a choreographed dance. Although glass is a natural material, Morris influences and seduces it from its natural state into something he can control, organic to inorganic. In its most vulnerable state, glass has the consistency of raw honey that, in comparison, reveals the metaphoric connectivity of concept in relation to medium. Therefore, the idea – nature, is a synonym to the material.

Often, glass sculptors will gravitate toward the reflective, transparent, and/or glittery quality of glass to be shown in their finished product.  However, Morris does not accent or emphasize the ordinary properties of glass. He identifies the exact opposite physical characteristics in his objects, purposely concealing the obvious veracity of the medium in the varying forms he creates, using opaque colors and texturally rendered surfaces, making the sculptures seem made of stone or ceramic rather than glass. The material is symbolically transposed back to its original ideology of nature as a completion of phases.

Because Morris derives inspiration for his work from Mesoamerican, Central and South American, Egyptian, African, and Native American cultures, he never replicates or imitates actual artifacts or specific imagery; rather, he challenges the completion of the object to reflect an equivalent aura and energy of the people of the past. James Yood, Professor of Modern Art History and Theory, School of the Art Institute of Chicago, states,  “His work is a call toward some communal memory, a reminder that the bonds that tie us to our planet are frayed and damaged and that we might benefit from a contemplation of ancient peoples who understood, respected, and nourished those bonds. His works offer us a bridge over the estrangement we often feel from both nature and ourselves, and a renewed encounter with ancestors who seemed deeply connected to the world around them.”

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