The art of glassblowing, like a life well lived, demands great patience, honesty and gentleness.
Such is the philosophy of Venetian poet-artist Giampaolo Seguso, whose family dynasty has been creating extraordinary blown-glass bowls, vases and other vessels on the island of Murano in Italy for more than 600 years.
Seguso (born 1942) represents the 22nd generation of his family's glass-making tradition -- and if practice makes perfect, Seguso has learned well. His works -- which sell for thousands upon thousands of dollars -- are celebrated around the world, appealing to collectors of various ilks. In 2011, Seguso created a monstrance (also known as ostensorium, a Mass vessel used to display a consecrated Eucharistic host) for Pope Benedict XVI.
Seguso said he attempts to imbue each of his glass artworks with soul and spirit through his poetry; each of the 33 pieces on view has an accompanying poem with names such as "Concerto," "Blue Wisteria" and "Danube."
"I am most happy," said the artist, "when the glass and I understand each other, when we can start a dialogue" when the glass responds to his creative demands.
"To be free, one must not be afraid" as an artist to take chances, Seguso said. "Glass is transparent, so it will always tell the truth. (It) will say: `You did it well' or `You did a bad job.' "
" `La Ragnatela' (meaning "spiderweb" in Italian) refers to the characteristically long, thin lines and complex patterns of filigrana (filigree) vases," the Corning Museum explains on its website. "A glass-making technique that was invented in 1527, filigrana consists of preparing parallel glass canes that are then melted into a mass of incandescent glass, creating perfect geometrical shapes in net and spiral-like patterns."
The exhibition is "the most ambitious" ever mounted at the Bellarmine -- and arguably the most dazzling, said museum Director Jill Deupi.
"We are thrilled" to host it, she said.
"La Ragnatela" is the second part of a three-part series, "La Galleria dei 99," each with its own theme inspired by the history of Murano. The first part deals with the technique known as "incalmo" (when two bubbles are joined); the final part will be "I Sogni" (Dreams), which will explore the artistic creativity within the medium.
Each part of the series is limited to 33 pieces, and each piece is limited to 99 editions. (In the Spiderweb series, pieces run from about $12,000 to $30,000.)
William Gudenrath -- resident adviser at the Corning Museum, glass artist and glass historian -- said that when he looks at Seguso's work, he cannot but marvel at the level of artistry and beauty that has been achieved by the maestro of Murano and the rich centuries of tradition from which he has benefited.
Seguso said that his art requires "enormous patience ... never violence. One cannot hurry the process." After being created in a hot furnace, every piece must be put through a cooling process.
"And with every piece, there can be a surprise, maybe even a crack," Seguso said, laughing.
He then turned to one of his favorite pieces, a magnificent bowl, "Cloud," and recited his poem:
"A cloud moves
hugging the tall tower.
the sky has fallen in love