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Performing Art
Arts and Entertainment Wednesday, Mar. 3, 2010 7 years ago

The glass masters

by: Heidi Kurpiela Contributing Writer

Glass artists Kathleen Mulcahy and Ron Desmett couldn’t risk shipping their pieces from Pittsburgh to Sarasota, so they rented a U-Haul truck and drove the show themselves.

For Mulcahy and Desmett, husband-and-wife sculptors and self-described workaholics, the road trip was a good excuse to leave the studio and listen to a Stephen King novel on CD.

The couple’s work is featured this month in “Perestroika (n) Restructuring,” a shared glass exhibit with artist Martin Prekop in the Selby Gallery at Ringling College of Art and Design. The show, which opened Feb. 26, is generating big buzz among Sarasota glass collectors, including Carol Camiener, a Ringling board member and member of the Southwest Florida Glass Art Alliance.

Camiener, who toured the exhibit in 2007 when it was at Carnegie Mellon University, in Pittsburgh, urged Selby Director Kevin Dean to bring the show to Ringling this year, stressing the fact that Sarasota has one of the country’s largest communities of glass collectors.

Trained in ceramics and mixed-media sculpture, Desmett’s pieces aren’t what you might expect. Dark, opaque and far from translucent, his lidded trunk vessels are made by blowing black glass into the hollow trunks of dead trees. Seventy-five percent of the vessels he creates break before they’re even finished.

Working within a brief window of time, Desmett heats the glass to 1,800 degrees and blows it into the trunk mold. Like liquid metal, the second the molten glass touches the trunk, it begins to take on the shape of the tree, forming a permanent vessel within two minutes.

On the other end of the glass spectrum are Mulcahy’s pieces, a series of aluminum panels, glass balls and water droplets that, unlike Desmett’s light-absorbing objects, reflect and refract light.

To create her “Mercurial Waters,” a large-scale piece of bent-and-etched glass over weathered steel, Mulcahy laid a sheet of glass on a bed of pins, slid it into a glass kiln and waited for it to slump. As soon as the ends of the glass began to curl, she pulled it out of the kiln and brushed on acid.

In the back wing of the gallery is Prekop’s “House,” an installation of photographs and negatives of Prekop’s Pittsburgh home — a 5,000-square-foot brick house covered completely in mirrors that Prekop, an art professor at Carnegie Mellon, purchased in 1994.

The subject of many Pittsburgh news stories and a source of contention among some of his neighbors, Prekop photographed the property using a special camera that prints on enlarged negative paper.

Says Prekop: “Some people buy houses and paint them beige so they can sell them again. I covered mine in mirrors.”

Conact Heidi Kurpiela at [email protected].

“Perestroika (n) Restructuring: The Glass Sculpture of Kathleen Mulcahy, Ron Desmett and Martin Prekop” is up now through March 31, at Selby Gallery. For more information, call 359-7563 or visit

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