On our trip back from visiting Sheila’s family in the southwest corner of Quebec we quickly sampled the Finger Lake district of New York. A specific destination was the community of Corning to visit the massive Museum of Glass.
My generation grew up with Corningware and Pyrex, products of the Corning Glass Company. During my working career in museums, the Corning Museum of Glass was recognized as a leader in museum craft. We were excited to finally visit and see what the fuss was all about.
The museum has gone through a series of expansions since the 70s (when we first heard about it) and the most recent addition just opened this spring.
It is an amazing block of shiny white glass, built to show large pieces of contemporary art made of glass. The spaces are striking and the lighting is perfect, and lighting glass is is not easy.
Here are a couple of examples of work that appealed to me. From a distance this appears to be three stylized trees by Canadian artist Katherine Grey.
When you get closer you see the illusion is created by shelves filled with about 2000 carefully arranged drinking glasses. Notice that some of the glasses are decorated with birds .
Here is a glass lynx by Marta Klonowska, based on a drawing by Albrecht Dürer from about 1500. I can hear my mother saying “How would you dust that?”
Of course a big glass museum would have work by the rock star of contemporary art glass – Dale Chihuly. Something to look at while you buy admission (good for 2 days – a great idea). Notice the grass outside the window.
The sea of grass separates the museum and the road.
The glass collections date back millennia but some of my favourite objects were from the early part of the last century. Like this famous lamp by Gerrit Rietveld and a Frank Lloyd Wright designed window.
A huge panel by René Lalique for a Chicago department store was more subtle than it appears in the photo.
I’m showing some high end objects but there are very clever science centre-type exhibits and lots of opportunity to see folks working with hot glass. And closer to home, there was a celebration of the hundredth anniversary of Pyrex, a Corning product.
The main street of Corning is charming with lots of shops selling glass – the whole town stays on message.
Between this street and the river is a long complex of black glass buildings that are the headquarters of the Corning Glass company . They now make things like fiber optic cables and the glass for iPhones.
The buildings look very oriental . Someone told us that many of Corning Glass’s associates were from the orient and the building made them feel very comfortable. I don`t necessarily believe that but it`s a cute idea.
An impressive number of people were visiting the museum . I was surprised to see so many. I guess all regional museums are not doomed.