January 9, 2013
Text by Kris Wilton
Adam Waimon’s path to becoming an artist was, well, as clear and smooth as glass. With an artist mother—Connecticut printmaker Deborah Weiss—and grandmother, he grew up in an art-focused environment.
A family trip to Italy the summer before he started high school clarified his vision. On a tour of Murano’s legendary glassmaking factories, he watched as an artisan crafted a glass horse in a matter of seconds. “He whipped it out of nowhere,” Waimon says. “And it wasn’t just a basic horse; it was a beautiful, elegant horse raised up on hind legs as if it were bucking. That image really never left me.”
Waimon went on to earn a degree in glass at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design and establish himself as a working glassmaker and artist. His work has been shown in several Connecticut galleries as well as in juried group shows such as the Boston Museum of Fine Arts’ summer auction and the annual “Red Hot Glass” show at the Tacoma Museum of Glass in Washington.
Perhaps owing to his childhood exposure to working artists, Waimon exhibits a steadfastness of purpose uncommon so early in an artist’s career. Still only in his twenties, he works as an assistant to glassmakers Elizabeth Pannell and James Watkins, helping produce their commercial glassware line, Peàn Doubulyu, by day and using their Providence studio to produce his own artwork in the evenings and on weekends. Without their support, he says, “I wouldn’t be able to make my work, to be honest.”
Waimon works in series, each with a distinct look and process and each tackling a new creative or technical challenge. In his “Carved” series, he works with color and texture, creating beautifully hued, meticulously carved objects inspired largely by the natural world. Whimsical but sophisticated, these pieces, which Waimon calls “incredibly labor intensive” undergo a multi-step process.
LimonCello, for example, comprises two yellow forms shaped and textured like something from a coral reef. Each bears a kind of spout, one pointing up, one toward the other, suggesting two friends in conversation, and a surface meticulously carved with bumps and striations. As with all the pieces in the series, Waimon cast and carved it, then sandblasted it to smooth and homogenize the surface, and finally reheated it to achieve an almost pearly luster.
Several concerns run throughout Waimon’s work, including the interaction and negative space between forms. Saffron Acorns is made up of two forms that, as the title suggests, resemble nuts rendered in an autumnal orange. Sleek and stylized, the unevenly sized subjects nod jauntily toward one another, each bearing carefully ridged sides and hundreds of delicate hand-carved dots representing an acorn’s nubby cap.
While the “Carved” works look to nature for sophisticated colors (cerulean, grape, lemon) and forms (nuts, blossoms, honeycombs, sea creatures), Waimon’s “Pagliacci” series has a very different aesthetic. Named for the Ruggero Leoncavallo opera, this series uses only black, white and gray, a reference to the character Canio’s costume in a production that impressed Waimon.
Like Canio, each object wears stripes that delineate the forms’ contours, calling attention to their three-dimensionality and evoking sophisticated computer modeling, particularly given the limited palette. Each piece in the series includes at least two cast forms—sometimes symmetrical, sometimes off-kilter, sometimes delightfully misshapen—coexisting pleasingly. In Jack in the Box, we see three, all in black with thin white stripes: a tall, strong oblong one flanked by shorter, three-dimensional figure eights, their top halves turned slightly away, as if they were characters looking up at the central figure. As in all the “Pagliacci” works, the stripes are themselves meticulously applied strips of glass.
For an exhibition opening on May 17 at Behnke Doherty Gallery in Washington Depot, Waimon will debut a series he calls “Passage.” For this work, Waimon has set himself a new challenge: to use only clear glass, putting “more emphasis on the exterior and interior forms” and allowing textures to “give the piece structure and unique detail.”
“Glass is such an unusual medium,” he says. “You can shape it however you want. It’s hot, it’s cold, you can cut into it, you can reheat it. You can create optical illusions with it if you want. You can do anything.”
With his thoughtful approach and his willingness to experiment, there’s no doubt that Waimon’s return to simple clear glass will produce something unexpected.
EDITOR’S NOTE To see more of Adam Waimon’s work, visit adamwaimon.com