Asheville Art Museum celebrates Studio Glass with Artist-Led Tour and Discussion

Friday, June 15, 2012

Up For Discussion with Christina Bothwell & Robert Bender

Notes from Jessica Curtis, Asheville Art Museum Communications Intern

When you think of the word glass, what comes to mind? A window? A picture frame?

To most, glass is stereotypically seen as an every day, inanimate object. Seen through artistic eyes, however, Christina Bothwell and Robert Bender perceive glass very differently.

Christina Bothwell and Robert Bender are both artists featured in the Glass Secessionism exhibition at Blue Spiral 1, which celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Studio Glass Movement and its relation to the region dating back to 1962.

The tour began in Asheville Art Museum’s current exhibition, Fire on the Mountain: Studio Glass in Western North Carolina, also celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the movement. Participants were not only able to visually interpret the exhibitions but were also fortunate enough to hear from Christina and Robert, who narrated the exhibitions, touching upon the development, style, and intent of their respective works.

Nancy Sokolove, Adult Programs Manager, organized the special Up For Discussion tour of Studio Glass, introducing Robert and Christina’s work at the start of the tour as having a “narrative quality”. Robert expanded on the idea of narrative quality in his work by stating that, “although he has always been an artist, his first art form was not glass blowing, but rather writing and illustrating children’s novels”. It was not until meeting his wife, Christina Bothwell that their glass works began to thrive. Christina spoke of her passion for glass work being “intoxicating” as it “takes over” and acts like a “40 watt bulb with a thousand currents”. Robert then stated how their relationship coincides with their glass work commenting, “We helped each other technically and creatively.”

With both Christina and Robert being self-taught glass artists, many of their techniques arose from mistakes and experiments made throughout their glass work practice. One of their personal experiments with glass is the technique of combining Bullseye glass (a high-priced glass) with Opaque glass (a lower-priced glass). Although this practice of combining the two glasses is nontraditional, Christina and Robert found that the cost effectiveness and resulting product were worth maintaining their nontraditional approach.

In addition to combining different types of glass, Christina also stated that she likes when bubbles occur in her works stating, “[they] are my favorite thing.” Commenting on her personal glass blowing techniques she stated, “You get surprises and you just have to work with them.” Christina and Robert then concluded that it was through their self-taught nature with glass that they could break away from the “technical perfection” of other glass artists.

Both Robert and Christina give credit to the glass work community, which Christina later referred to as the “Artist Covenant”, for their boldness and success.

Nancy Sokolove stated, “That is what the glass workers are known for…their sense of community.”

Robert’s final statement on the topic was that the glass worker’s sense of support and community was simply “good karma”.

At the conclusion of the tour, Christina was asked why she chose glass work over ceramics. She replied, “Glass transmits light and clay doesn’t…it just seems more alive to me.”

Up for Discussion: Glass Secessionism, provided participants with a new perception of glass. After time spent seeing glass through the eyes of artists Christina Bothwell and Robert Bender, glass expanded beyond that of an everyday inanimate object to become a material of art, transformation and creation.

The Asheville Art Museum regularly organizes and leads a wide variety of artist discussions, guided tours and related public programs for audiences of all ages. For more information about adult education programs, please contact Nancy Sokolove at 828.253.3227, ext. 120, or email