Martin Blank is one of North America’s premiere figurative glass sculptors with a style quintessentially his own. Creating tension between sculptural forms that evoke compelling landscapes revealed by the juxtaposition of sculptural elements, Blank's work is about carving space. To him, dynamic sculpture is as much about the mass as it is the void: ‘It always intrigues me when the forms reveal a negative space that is as vital and potent as the actual objects.’
Blank’s abstract landscapes reveal the vibrant repetitive structures inherent in nature. They repeat in diverse forms; flowing to creating a passage, a line, a twist and an eddy that is continually impacted by its surroundings.
‘It has become clear to me in the past twenty-five years of exploration with the idea of ‘flow’ that it is the underlying thread that binds my work,’ the artist explains. ‘Great sculpture is like music; all you have to do is feel it.’Blank's blown glass sculptures are in collections throughout the United States, and he is featured in international exhibitions including the Millennium Museum in Beijing, China, the Shanghai Museum of Fine Art and the American Embassy in Slovakia. In 2001 he designed the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation 'Access to Learning' Award for recipients in Finland, Argentina and Guatemala. Most recently, Blank was awarded a public art commission for the new World Trade Center Building in New York City. Martin Blank is also known for his architectural glass installations. In 2008-2009, Martin Blank’s glassblowing and sculptural skills lead to a large public commission, Fluent Steps, a permanent exterior installation at the Museum of Glass, in Tacoma, WA.
The Crystal Reveal series is a monumental step in Martin Blank’s ongoing exploration of nature taking form in glass. Crystal Reveal lets us peer in his representation of a tree, gorgeously sculpted with vibrant inner layers and transparent skin curving around a metal spine. The skin is made by pressing molten glass with brass castings of tree bark, as each individual layer of bark is attached to the metal skeleton. The resulting sculpture is a cylindrical form with an illuminated golden interior, towering over its viewers. These structures stunningly immortalize the trees from which the castings are taken and reconnect viewers with the natural world in contrasting urban environments.
Making art is like grasping, reaching out for lost love, always pining to find that exquisite moment. It’s about yearning, reaching out to touch beauty, to smell it, to eat it, to taste it in a way that touches your heart. It’s like when you stand in front of some incredible presence of nature, whether it’s the ocean or a lake, or the dew on a crisp morning. Can you smell it, it’s the quality of being, like the first drop of rain as it hits a secluded pond, the resonance, the way the ripples reach out, crossing each other’s paths, intercepting, spreading, reaching, dividing, overlapping.
We in the West think of our lives in a linear way. But, it’s not. It resonates ring upon ring, a layering of time. What you do and say now will have effects on other people and places that you have no idea of yet. This is why we’re always speaking of synchronicity.
I don’t blow glass, I shape it or pry it into my desires, willing it into form with my team and my tools. It’s constantly changing shape. It never maintains its original statement. The hard part is catching it before it goes too far to the other extreme. It’s a liquid, caught between the phases of matter. And, you and the furnaces are the window that opens this period of time, expanding upon it and somehow creating art in this narrow gap. It takes constant awareness of your state of being and your surroundings. You need a sharp, acute sense of self, connection, and intimacy with your team.
I’ve gotten to a point with my work that it’s simply about creating exquisite spaces. By placing forms juxtaposed one another, one can create out of nothing. A void that is as potent and real as the three-dimensional object next to it. These spaces are like the spaces between words. The power of those pauses are unspoken words. It’s like the spaces between the inhalation and the exhalation. One must come before the other, but always connected. These spaces give you a place to travel to or through much like the way nature will, in thousands of years and millions upon millions of caressing waves, boar out a passage through rock that is so perfect and seems as if it’s always been there. To watch the water fill the voids as the tides change, watching the voids that water fills that were once held by air.
Again it’s back to nature, the great teacher for all. The perfect teacher for a sense of form, flow and wonderment. It’s a resource, or just the source. It’s the place we come from and we’re all a part of, like looking at the sunset full of melancholy because there’s no way to understand the magnitude of its beauty or the sense of separation.
Balance, nature, form. These are exquisite qualities in life. As exquisite and simple as breath alone.
Watch a timelapse of the installation of Martin Blank's Crystal Reveal at Friesen Gallery in February 2017: