Tlingit artist Preston Singletary first started blowing glass
at 19 years old, working at Seattle's Glass Eye Studio, and later
studied at the Pilchuck Glass School. There he learned from American
glass artist Dante Marioni and Lino Tagliapietra, a world-famous
Venetian glass-blower from the Italian island of Murano, the Mecca
of glass art. Singletary's artworks are exhibited at the British
Museum in London, the Museum of Fine Arts of Boston, the Seattle
Art Museum, and the Heard Museum in Phoenix, and he is represented
by the Blue Rain Gallery (Santa Fe), the Spirit Wrestler Gallery
(Vancouver), and the Traver Gallery (Seattle).
Your work is a harmonious mix of
traditional patterns and highly sophisticated modern designs --
what is you creative process?
I studied the Tlingit mythology and symbolism with Elders, adapting
the culture to the glass, incorporating Tlingit designs in which
symbolic emblems represent specific families. I come from a family
of eagle and raven, wolf and bear. In the old days, you would not
marry in your own group -- that is how they kept the bloodline.
I did not go to school, so -- looking at primitivism, and modern
art, admiring Picasso, Henry Moore, Jackson Pollock -- I made decorative
art, transitioning it to Native designs, adapting bowls, sculptures.
Understanding the balance and proportions, I have the freedom to
create new designs and shapes.
Is glass-blowing a common art form among Native
No. I am the only Tlingit glass-blower today, and an ambassador
among Natives for glass blowing. I teach, and collaborate with other
Native artists, Hawaiians, Maori -- It is great to learn how contemporary
Natives interpret their traditional cultures in their work.
So how do you see the evolution of glass-blowing
among Native artists?
The glass is a transformational medium, changing liquid into
solid. As it changes throughout the day, with the light casting
shadows, it becomes a kinetic representation, bringing a different
kind of attention, and another dimension to indigenous art. The
shaping of the glass creates a distinctive, modern signature. We,
as Natives, should evolve towards using new materials. Personally,
I do have a sense of purpose, representing my culture with the glass.
For more information about the artist, and to see more examples
of his work, visit PrestonSingletary.com.
When I began working with glass in 1982, I had no idea that I'd
be so connected to the material in the way that I am. It was only
when I began to experiment with using designs from my Tlingit cultural
heritage that my work began to take on a new purpose and direction.