An intricate glass coral reef inhabited by an octopus, two bright orange clownfish and other marine creatures sits in one corner of the Pittsburgh Glass Center Hodge Gallery.
This work, "Greater Blue-ringed Octopus on a Teeming Coral Reef" by Joe Peters of Battleboro, Mass., is among 50 glass artworks in the "Lifeforms" exhibition, which opens with a free public reception from 6 to 9 p.m. Friday. The show features pieces that embody some type of life-form, from hibiscus and seahorses to microorganisms and fish skeletons. The submitted works came from across the globe, including from the United States, Scotland, Italy, Japan, Australia, England and Canada.
Robert Mickelsen, a glass artist who organized "Lifeforms," said it was exciting to see the project finally begin to unfold before his eyes.
"It's very gratifying to think of something in the abstract and then it's sitting in front of you," he said.
The inspiration for "Lifeforms" came from Rudolf and Leopold Blaschka's glass biological models made in the 19th and 20th centuries for Harvard University's museums. Mr. Mickelsen remembers visiting the Harvard Botanical Museum when it was displaying the Blaschkas' glass flowers. The experience had such an impact on him that he wanted to give today's artists the chance to create similar life-form art.
This exhibition's 50 works were selected from 102 submissions based on accuracy to the life-form being depicted, aesthetic beauty, presentation and originality. Trying to combine accuracy and originality especially can be a difficult task, said Heather McElwee, executive director of the Pittsburgh Glass Center.
Originally, organizers intended to display 40 works, but the quality of the art was so impressive that they decided to accommodate 10 more, Ms. McElwee said. Each of these pieces took hundreds of hours to complete, she added.
The extensive labor is evident in the detail in each piece. In "Eternal Bloom" by Carolyn Baum, a hibiscus has yellow leaves that seem to ripple in the breeze. In "Courtship: Keel-billed Toucans" by Kimberly Fields, two miniature toucans are perched among trees. "Phalaenopsis Orchid Cage Cup" by Jason Howard is a sparkling goblet surrounded by a string of purple orchids.
Four Pittsburgh artists are included in the exhibit:
• Theo Keller created a cactus, "Candelabra Euphorbia."
• Lyla Nelson made a vase, "Hyacinth -- Hyacinthus orientalis."
• Mike Mangiafico and Ed Pinto created an ant hill, "Carpenter Ant -- Componotus ligniperda," and supplied a magnifying glass to better see the tiny insects.
Although the Pittsburgh Glass Center has three or four exhibitions every year, not every show has the same level of international and professional draw as does "Lifeforms." In addition to organizing exhibitions, the center offers classes and provides studio space to local glass artists. More than 30 people have moved to Pittsburgh to pursue glass work at the center, helping to make the city one of the top five glass centers in the country, said marketing director Paige Ilkhanipour..
The opening for the exhibition will include a glass art making demonstration and the announcement of nine awards. Three awards of $1,000 each will be given for excellence, three of $500 each will be given for achievement and three $200 awards will be given for merit.
At 6 p.m. today Mr. Mickelsen will give a free public illustrated talk about his work. Also speaking will be Raven Skyriver, whose depiction of marine life is inspired by his island upbringing and informed by the creatures that inhabit that fragile ecosystem, and Martin Janecky, who studied sculpting methods in the Czech Republic.
Monica Disare: firstname.lastname@example.org.