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Artist of the Month
July 2015

Artist of the Month

Karsten Oaks

Karsten Oaks is an emerging artist working out of his Seattle studio. He creates dynamic and fluid sculptures from clear leaded crystal and accents them with a punch of color. Karsten possesses a great mastery of cold working techniques evident in his graceful yet precise work. He first began showing his work in late 2014 and it is already included in a number of notable private collections. Karsten is represented by Bender Gallery, Asheville, North Carolina.

Click on each photo to the right for a full picture. 

Karsten Oaks

Artist of the Month

Artist Statement:

As an artist, I’m not inspired by one solitary concept or action. Instead, I have several major influences that lend different aspects to my aesthetic. When I start a sculpture, I begin construction of the form. I think abstractly about fluid mechanics and try to create a negative space within the form which gives a sense of movement to the sculpture. The process of construction itself inspires me as much as the form. I begin with blocks that are cut to approximate the overall shape, and then sand them white so that the form can be the sole focus.

The internal cutting is largely inspired by line quality and how it can be interpreted three dimensionally. I strive to make artwork that evokes feelings similar to the way the sharpness of handwriting or the gesture of one’s hands while talking can cause the viewer to feel an emotional connection. I often find myself drawn to more aggressive, defensive or harmonious work based largely on what is going on around me and in my own life. 

When working on the design within the piece, I’m using elements of dynamic symmetry such as spirals and ratios. Using different shapes in the sculpture while staying consistent with the proportions, I can create a sense of harmony within what would otherwise be a disorganized form. Even after all of the major reductive cuts have been made I leave some of the design to be laid out when the rest of the piece is almost complete. I feel that this mild sense of chaos through the work’s creation gives each piece its personality and character when it is finished. 

After the glass is completely polished and I’ve had a chance to live with it, I use color to create a sense of contrast or transition. This is meant to tie together or introduce distinction. I feel the form should inform the color. In a sense, creating unity or distinction in a sculpture should be mimicked by complimentary or contrasting colors. The color is meant to be the final extension of the form. It can help to draw the viewer in to the piece and then engage them and inspire exploration.

When I’ve finished with a piece I usually feel a compulsion to create the next one based on the previous successes. This comes in part from having completed pieces in front of me and being able to interact with the artwork. Beyond the individual forms I’m inspired by the potential of all of my pieces to create compositions. This can only come by living with the work and moving them around each other. After I’ve finished something it then becomes grounds for new exploration and inspiration.

About Karsten Oaks

Karsten Oaks is an emerging artist with a bright future. Born and raised in the suburbs of Minneapolis, Karsten took an interest in the arts at an early age. He started playing music when he was 10 years old and went on to play a variety of instruments. As the son of a trained chef, Karsten grew up learning an appreciation of working with his hands in a creative way, and he enjoys cooking to this day.

In high school Karsten took as many art classes as he could. When he was 16, a friend introduced him to glassblowing as a medium and he traveled to Tennessee to take his first classes. This sparked the beginning of Karsten’s love of glass as a means to express his artistic vision.

Karsten received his B.F.A. in glass from the Appalachian Center for Crafts in 2008. There, Karsten was greatly influenced by his mentor Curtiss Brock, who also instilled in him the value of hard work. He initially was interested in blowing glass but when he was 20 he found that his ideas could be expressed more precisely and  clearly through cold working. Immediately after graduation Karsten moved to Seattle with the goal to work with some of the best artists in the field of glass.

Karsten currently does freelance work for a number of artists which began in 2009 when he landed a job working for Martin Blank. Martin taught Karsten to create in a less regimented way than he learned at college and to trust his instincts.  Since then, Karsten has done cold working for both John Kiley and Lino Tagliapietra. In fact, he is currently the only person in the United States who cold works Lino’s pieces.

In 2012 Karsten built his current studio in order to create work uniquely his own. His dynamic and fluid crystal sculptures debuted at Bender Gallery in October, 2014.

Click here for an artist's resume.

Acknowledgment of Gallery:
We are grateful to Bender Gallery, Asheville, North Carolina, for providing the Artist of the Month.

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Our Mission

The Art Alliance for Contemporary Glass is a not-for-profit organization whose mission is to further the development and appreciation of art made from glass.

The Alliance informs collectors, critics and curators by encouraging and supporting museum exhibitions, university glass departments and specialized teaching programs, regional collector groups, visits to private collections, and public seminars.