Glass menagerie

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When I met Elizabeth Nickles at the University of the Arts G2 Gallery to see her new work, she was excited to tell me about how instrumental her residency at Pilchuck Glass School was for her thinking and for her practice.

Pilchuck, in Washington State, was started by Dale Chihuly.

As sometimes happens when an artist tries a new material, Nickles, who uses cast bronze in her practice, felt that her experience working with glass was liberating. It freed her to be more experimental.

The colorful glass pieces, some hollow, some solid, are sprinkled around the large basement gallery. They sit on crudely-wonderful wooden shelves or on new-fashioned metal armatures and because many are fragments (horses — torso only; a bird — head only) they appear to be a collection from ritual uses in ancient times.

Nickles’ themes — which suggest longing for simplicity and reverence for nature — work beautifully in glass. The work has some of the lumpty, ur-vessel charm you see in Roman glass.

What’s new to her practice post-glass? The artist says she’s especially interested in merging her birds, deer and horses with shapes and objects that are dreamier and less rooted in the real world. Indeed, some of the supports (like the one pictured with the purple bird) suggest improbable sights Alice might see on the other side of the looking glass.

The two shelves of creatures that appear to be from the sea or the forest floor also suggest parallel, though not quite real experiences of life.

If you miss this exhibit, up until the end of February, you can catch Nickles glass pieces at Schmidt-Dean Gallery in May. (all three images are from the G2 Gallery installation)

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