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Artist of the Month
August 2018

Artist of the Month

Mary Van Cline

Mary Van Cline is best known for her pioneering cast sculpture using photosensitive glass. Her black and white photo images tell a narrative story about the passage of time and healing. In addition to numerous awards, she was interviewed over several days for the National Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution Oral History Program, where you can listen to her recorded story. Mary Van Cline is represented by Bender Gallery, Asheville, North Carolina.

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

Mary Van Cline

Artist of the Month

Artist Statement:

For Mary Van Cline, time is the riddle of human existence. It pushes one forward and leaves one behind. It exists beyond clocks, but humanity is constantly trying to measure it. Its boundaries can drive one to despair, its passage heal. For Van Cline, time has done both, and she has chronicled the changes through her sculpture, from her earliest work to her latest installations.

Van Cline's work is rich in symbols which work on many levels. The figures in her photos span the ages in their anonymity, while the very process of photography stops time altogether. The increasing spaciousness in her work calls for a participatory response from the viewer, a sense of time for healing.  It invites one in, to stop, to rest, to contemplate. But more than that, it asks us to look for changes in ourselves, to get out of our box and cross the lines of our imagination and to be, for a little while, in another space where time does not just stand still; time does not exist at all.

About Mary Van Cline

Mary Van Cline's pioneering techniques in glass began at Massachusetts College of Art in 1978, where she received her MFA in glass sculpture with Dan Dailey. After completing her BFA degree in design and architecture at North Texas University in 1976, she was introduced to glass with Fritz Dreisbach at Penland School in 1977. While in graduate school in Boston, Van Cline began developing photo emulsions on glass, and experimenting with crushed glass in molds, creating sugar-like castings which she later used in her life-size “Ivory Figures” and “Inochi Series.”

In 1983, Van Cline accepted an invitation to be one of the inaugural fellows at Wheaton Art's Creative Glass Center of America (CGCA), helping to develop the program and build the facilities. After receiving an award from the National Endowment for the Arts in 1986, she was the youngest artist to be given a Cultural Exchange Award from the Japan/U.S. Friendship Commission. Van Cline later won the Grand Prize at the Glass Kanazawa Museum in Japan, being one of the few women awarded. "Cycles of the Relationship of Time" is an example of her travels in Japan. It is a cast glass bronze patina vessel which includes photosensitive glass prisms whose imagery was taken on the coast of Nijima Island, near the Nijima Glass Center in Japan. 

In her fourth decade working in glass as a" photographic sculptor" frequently inventing glass fabrication techniques along the way, the scale of Van Cline’s work has increased substantially. By infusing her own photographic imagery into her installations, Van Cline builds a stage that reads like theater-in-the-round. Van Cline's inventive processes are a result of breaking the glass ceiling decades ago by reaching out to industries such as Kodak, DuPont, Schott North America, and Corning.

Being well known for her large glass installations, Van Cline was commissioned by Arts America and the U.S. Information Agency in 1993. Van Cline took a risk and over a year off from the gallery scene, whereby she invented a photographic process to complete "The Listening Point," a room-size installation of architectural proportions which includes a large 5 x 6 ft. glass photograph that reflects into a large black glass pool. The installation opened at the Taft Museum in Cincinnati and later traveled to 14 venues in Southeast Asia. In 2009 it was featured in “Staged Stories” at the Renwick Gallery, Smithsonian American Art Museum and included an additional reflecting pool of black glass with several 8 foot-long pate de verre ivory Ice Branches which are nested and stacked upon one another.

While creating another installation for “Staged Stories” at the Renwick Gallery, Van Cline began working with DuPont using technology to infuse safety glass with photographic images. Following a large commission in Tel Aviv, Van Cline had begun searching for a way to display glass photographs outside in the intense Middle Eastern heat. The results were "The Healing Passages of Time" which incorporates two large transparent glass black & white photographs 5 x 10 feet within safety glass.

Traveling with her Hasselblad medium format film camera, Van Cline’s interest in photographing remote ruins and stark landscapes has taken her to several countries including Asia, Crete, Tunisia, Baja Mexico, and the Middle East. Her belief in a "beyond the studio" approach inspires interaction with other industries and allows her to invent new processes, something she has done since her earliest days in glass. "It keeps my artwork fresh and challenges the boundaries of my concepts. The digital age of imagery has forever changed the world, and I approach new techniques with one foot in the past and one foot through an open door to the future."

Note: In 2017, Van Cline began The Documenta Project. She turned to portraiture to photograph and capture the spirit and character of the unique quality of the people who enabled and contributed to the Studio Glass Movement. Van Cline is preserving these artists, collectors, and dealers in near life-size images on film and high resolution digital files, along with a collection of archival portraits with the intention of housing them within permanent museums in the public domain for the future. The Documenta Project would like to take this opportunity to thank The Founding Members Circle, so many who are members of the AACG, and who have donated so generously!

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