|SYDNEY'S BOAT (2000), BY STEVEN WEINBERG|
ACQUIRED FROM WILLIAM TRAVER GALLERY, SEATTLE, WASHINGTON, AUGUST 2000
CAST, GROUND, AND POLISHED SCHOTT OPTICAL GLASS AND COBALT BLUE GLASS, SIGNATURE AND SERIAL NUMBER (000808) ENGRAVED BY THE ARTIST, 14" LONG BY 7" HIGH BY 4" DEEP
This work has a really good story behind it: When I visited Seattle in early August 2000, I made a grand tour of all of the Seattle art galleries that I have done business with... Foster/White Gallery, Elliott Brown Gallery, and William Traver Gallery. The show at William Traver Gallery, which had just begun the night before, featured works by Steven Weinberg... really cool works made of cast optical glass.
Probably because the show had just begun, Steven Weinberg and his family dropped in to visit the gallery while I was there... Bill Traver introduced us, and we began to talk about his works. I really liked the precision of his works, which included some really cool features. After we spoke for a while, I decided to acquire this work.
This work is a semicircular arc of cast optical and cobalt blue glass. To create this type of work, Steven starts with a rubber blank, in roughly the desired shape and size of the finished work. He then uses the blank to create a plaster mold which will shape the molten glass. He stacks a large block of clear optical glass on top of a smaller block of colored glass, places the stack of glass on top of the mold, and then places everything into a kiln. Before casting the glass, however, Steven drills fine holes into the bottom of the block of optical glass... these holes become the large bubbles you see in the work.
When Steven fires up his kiln, the entire stack of glass slumps down into the mold... the colored glass remains on the bottom and the optical glass remains on top as it settles into the mold. When the glass melts, however, the air in the drilled holes contracts into spherical bubbles, which rise up slowly through the glass and which pull a fine amount of the colored glass up into the optical glass. By precisely controlling the depth, diameter, and position of the drilled holes, Steven can control where the bubbles ultimately end up. (Steven told me that the folks who make the optical glass give him a hard time for introducing bubbles into the glass, since they spend so much time and effort trying to get all of the bubbles out.)
Once the work anneals, Steven uses grinders and polishers to smooth the front, back, and top of the work, and to add lenses to the work. This work includes a simple spherical lens on its upper surface, and toroidal lenses on the front and back of the work (spherical channels with a point in the middle). These lenses are incredibly difficult to create with any degree of accuracy, but Steven has done an excellent job grinding them on this work.
The outer arc of the work has been finished using an ancient technique known as "gluechipping"... basically, Steven coats the smooth outer arc with a horse-based glue. Once the glue dries, he places the work back in a kiln. As the glue heats up, it shrinks and exerts a tremendous amount of pressure on the outer arc, compressing and distorting the glass before falling away from the work. The result is a rough, beaten glass surface... this technique used to be used in the creation of stained-glass windows.
This work is named for one of Steven's sons. All of these works are referred to as "boats", because of their shape. Steven named one of his other boats Alden Boat, after a yacht maker in Rhode Island. Since one of Steven's sons is also named Alden, his other two sons, Sydney and Sharkey, reasoned that Alden Boat was named for their brother. They told their dad that they wanted to have boats named for them as well... so, Steven created Sharkey's Boat and Sydney's Boat, this work.
There are a number of things I love about this work... the deep cobalt blue is a favorite color of mine. The clarity of the optical glass and the precision of the suspended bubbles and ground lenses are amazing... the way they catch the light is seriously cool. And I really like the way that Steven has scarred the outer arc of the work... the rough appearance suggests to me the bottom of a real boat.
Steven's later boats often contain many more bubbles and more complicated arrays of lenses... but I'm still a fan of the relative simplicity of this boat. Very cool.
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