Lino Tagliapietra, considered by many in the field to be the world's greatest living glassblower, is in residency at the Pittsburgh Glass Center. The public is invited to watch him work in the studio from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. today through Friday.
Mr. Tagliapietra is here with his Seattle team: Nancy Callan, Darin Denison, Jen Elek and Dave Walters. (He maintains a second studio in Murano, Italy.) Together they will produce the fluid, brilliantly colored, technically sophisticated pieces that have become the artist's signature since 1990, when he turned his attention to creating unique works.
He was born in 1934 on the legendary glass island of Murano, in the Venetian Lagoon, and began working in glass factories as a child. He began as an assistant, then became apprentice, and in his early 20s was granted the title maestro for master glass blower.
Mr. Tagliapietra made his first trip to the U.S. in 1979, at the invitation of Dale Chihuly and Benjamin Moore, to teach at the Pilchuck Glass School. Collaborations with noted European and American glass artists followed.
Readers may know his tall (53-inch) "Dinosaur," with its looping, tendril-like neck, displayed in a nook of its own off the Carnegie Museum of Art Hall of Sculpture. The artist told the museum that the work integrates the strength of the dinosaur with the fluidity of the fishes that inhabit the waters of Venice.
The Carnegie owns two other Tagliapietra works -- "Borneo," given to the museum by Maxine and William Block when he was chairman emeritus of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, and "Giano" from 1992. His work is also represented in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, and the Victoria and Albert Museum, London.
A 2009 retrospective exhibition of his work was organized by the Museum of Tacoma and traveled to three venues including the Smithsonian American Art Museum's Renwick Gallery in Washington, D.C. In 2006, the James Renwick Alliance presented him with the Distinguished Educator Award and in 2011 the Master of Medium Award.
Other honors that illustrate the breadth of his achievements include a Rakow Commission for Excellence in Glass Award by The Corning Museum of Glass, N.Y.; the Glass Art Society Lifetime Achievement Award; UrbanGlass Award for Preservation of Glassblowing Techniques, Brooklyn; an Artist Visionaries! Lifetime Achievement Award from the Museum of Arts & Design, New York; a coveted Phoenix Award bestowed in Venice; and an honorary doctorate in fine arts from Ohio State University.
The center is at 5472 Penn Ave., two blocks west of the intersection of Penn and Negley avenues, Garfield. Admission is free. Information: www.pittsburghglasscenter.org or 412-365-2145.
Astria Suparak leaving
A hearty culture scene is one of the checklist items that companies look for when deciding to establish a business in a city, or that ratings organizations cite, and ours has often moved Pittsburgh to the top of such lists. So it's a sad day for both the art and the larger geographical communities when we lose one of the venues that makes us unique, as is the case with the Miller Gallery at Carnegie Mellon University.
The school has eliminated the position of the gallery's director and curator, which Astria Suparak refined into an important leadership role during her six-year tenure. She supplemented annual exhibitions of student work with shows that introduced experimental and progressive topics fitting an academic audience while providing a service to a general public that would have little other opportunity to be exposed to them. She also collaborated with local organizations, most prominently as a player in the 2011 Pittsburgh Biennial, a five-venue survey of contemporary regional art.
Ms. Suparak writes in an email that "The dean of the CMU College of Fine Arts has elected to transform the gallery into an internally focused space for students and faculty that will be programmed by a faculty committee."
We'll learn more about the factors that drove such a decision in future weeks. But the initial impact is one of loss.
Carnegie International 2013 artist Joel Sternfeld will give a free public talk at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at Carnegie Museum of Art. He'll speak about his exhibited series "Sweet Earth," photographs of American utopian communities. Information: 412-622-3131 or www.cmoa.org.
Member sharing days
Nine local culture venues will offer free admission and other benefits (such as gift shop or membership discounts) to members of any of the participating institutions on a February day as follows:
Saturday -- Westmoreland Museum of American Art.
Sunday -- Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh (Carnegie Museum of Art, Carnegie Museum of Natural History, The Warhol, Carnegie Science Center).
Feb. 8 -- Senator John Heinz History Center (including the Fort Pitt Museum).
Feb. 9 -- Mattress Factory.
Feb. 15 -- Children's Museum of Pittsburgh.
Feb. 16 -- Frick Art & Historical Center.
Feb. 17 -- Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium.
Feb. 22 -- Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens.
Feb. 2 -- National Aviary.
Post-Gazette art critic Mary Thomas: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1925.