Inspired by the flora and fauna of the Pacific Northwest, Native Species features 38 blown-glass vessels by William Morris, protege of Dale Chihuly.
William Morris: Native Species
The George R. Stroemple Collection
April 18 to September 6, 2015
In 1978, William Morris discovered his passion for glassblowing at Pilchuck Glass School working under the direction of Dale Chihuly and the many glass masters that crossed the Pilchuck threshold. Over the next 10 years Morris developed outstanding skills in glassblowing that allowed for a deep exploration and interpretation of his love of the natural world through
William Morris Native Species: The George R. Stroemple Collection offers us a collaboration between patron George Stroemple and artist William Morris. Morris met Oregon collector George Stroemple in 1991 and by this time Morris had gained an extensive glass vocabulary inspired by nature. They immediately became soulmates sharing a love of the outdoors, nature and adventure, often traveling together through canyons, deserts and mountainous regions.
Seeing the natural world through the eyes of the artist is a resounding theme in the Stroemple collection and these encounters with William Morris resulted in the 2004 commission of 38 nature-inspired vessels that carry this forth, representing this bond between artist and patron. The results premiered at the Bellevue Art Museum in Bellevue Washington, conveniently located near Pilchuck Glass School, a relationship that is integral to the background of this collection.
George Stroemple was born in Cleveland, OH and raised in Oswego, OR. The location nurtured his outdoor spirit through hunting and fishing trips with his father.
His interest in collecting art grew with his equal entrepreneurial spirit for commercial enterprises like real estate development, telecommunications, import and export of lumber for building and other commercial enterprises. Stroemple is a Vietnam Veteran and a self-starter as a dropout of Oregon State University one semester short of graduation.
In this early period he began to collect art and in the 1980s became very interested in studio glass, purchasing early works of Dale Chihuly, and other glass artists who have been integral to shaping Pilchuck. His collection exceeds 1300 works mixed with paintings, glass, bronze and — integral to the Native Species inspiration — antique Japanese Meiji ceramics and bronzes. A unifying theme throughout is an interest in natural history themes. The melding of all of these things: interests, relationships and visual influences in the Meiji ceramics and the 19th century glass of Emile Gallé, formed a new order in the resulting 38 vessels of Native Species.
George Stroemple had been supporting Morris’ work for some time, encouraging new forms such as the Canopic jar series. Native Species was formed out of this friendship: a walk in the beautiful surroundings of the Steens Mountains near Stroemple’s Wildhorse ranch, a view of the high desert in southeastern Oregon with its pines native to the area and the maples found near Morris’ home at the time in Stanwood, WA. The direction was simple, look at nature and absorb its message, look at the 19th and early 20th century glass works of Emile Gallé, Louis Comfort Tiffany and others. One more thought was to consider the Japanese Meiji ceramic vessels George Stroemple owns and admires, then, bring this all into a 21st century vocabulary.
The results were out of the ordinary for the work Morris had done to this point, but because of the friendship he had with Stroemple, it was not out of the question. The direction was not only rooted in their friendship, but in shared experiences in the outdoors. They were hunters and keen observers of nature. Stroemple roamed his Steen Mountain surroundings since childhood and Morris was the quintessential nature boy and adventurer: rock climbing since childhood, camping, diving and parasailing. Both thrive when absorbing close intimate encounters in the solitude of the unspoiled landscape. Although they have vacationed together on long rugged motorcycle trips, each maintains a life enjoying his own solitude; Morris prefers no television or internet.
Out of this collector/artist friendship, 38 vessels were created in the quiet hours at Pilchuck, the glass hot shop begun by Dale Chihuly in the woods of Washington state. It was opened in 1971 and grew to a collaborative creative environment with William Morris among its founding transformers with countless others like Flora Mace and Joey Kirkpatrick, Italo Scanga and Lino Tagliapietra, who have expanded the creative wealth and technical capabilities. Morris was the main gaffer who collaborated with the assistance of Jon Ormbrek, Rik Allen, Karen Willenbrink and Randy Walker, keeping the Pilchuck collaborative tradition.
Some of the techniques Morris uses in Native Species grew from this familiar creative environment, yet some techniques necessary to reach the surfaces he imagined were new to Morris. Perhaps the influence of his art nouveau predecessors who also incorporated nature in their work, in a very organic way, played an integral role in defining these works, yet he also internalized the elegance of the Meiji vessels to which he had access from the Stroemple collection. Some techniques were deliberate to capture a rough, granular corroded surface that defied the glistening beauty associated with glass objects. Scavo is an etching technique that produces rich surfaces textural without sandblasting, but retains a rough, unpolished quality, very appropriate to the need dictated by the subject matter.
The resulting works look effortless in their naturalistic form, but they are shaped out of a deep knowledge and care for the environment from which they emerged. They are not of the art nouveau period, the Meiji influence or even like the works Morris created before. There is a demonstrated reverence to the history of this craft material and those who stretched its boundary of use like Gallé, and the taming of this lava-like material with incredible technical skill to transform this molten shapeless substance into something our eyes believe. They are newly stated and a subtle melding of all of this previous knowledge. The works are imbued with creatures like squirrels gathering pine cones, birds perched on branches, pheasants running the surface and subtle leaf patterns reaching across the surface. Yet, they are a neutral study, not exploiting an environmental message.
What Morris brings to us through Native Species is a chance to pause, reflect and immerse ourselves in momentary encounters. Bergstrom-Mahler Museum of Glass is pleased to bring this encounter to Wisconsin, because of the natural beauty of this state, its wildlife and its widespread forested areas. It is this beauty that is universal and the experiences it brings reach our souls.
William Morris: Native Species will be open through
September 6, 2015. Native Species nature walks take place on 2nd Wednesdays each month at noon during the exhibition.
Thank you, exhibition sponsors: