Celebrating female artists working with glass, the Bergstrom-Mahler Museum of Glass in Wisconsin has opened a new exhibition, “Sharper Edges: Women Working on the Edge of Glass.” The artists in this exhibition grapple with social issues through their work, expressing their views on politics, gender biases and the environment. An art form largely dominated by male protagonists, glass has a somewhat hidden female history of subtly powerful influence. For more insight into the background of this exhibition, The Glass Quarterly Hot Sheet spoke with the museum’s director, Jan Smith, and with exhibiting artist Audrey Handler. Handler is a former student of renowned glass artist and teacher Harvey Littleton, and is referred to by Smith as the “grande dame of contemporary glass.”
Glass Quarterly Hot Sheet: What was the impetus for this exhibition?
Jan Smith: Although there is some concern in the arts community about identifying women artists in a way that seems to segregate them further, there is also reason to emulate their accomplishments in a year that has focused on women’s initiatives and wellbeing. About two years ago, Audrey Handler mentioned an inquiry she began with the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington D.C. about glass representation by women in their collection. Apparently, women were under represented and the broad spectrum of their work by women in this medium was lacking. Audrey Handler felt compelled to do something about it and asked if I would consider helping with an exhibition proposal.