Fall 2011 Fellow
Anna Mlasowsky charts her own course. She knows her destination. Her job as an artist is to figure out how out how to get there. At the Creative Glass Center of America, the Fall, 2011 Resident fellow focused on a series of intentionally entropic experiments. “I propose to consider how nature uses elements to [construct] our landscapes. When you look at the way glass is made using all the elements together: fire, water, soil, and air; it is basically very different but also similar.” She calls the over-arching project “Synergy.” She plans large glass panels suspended parallel to the floor so that they suggest the surface of the earth. Mlasowsky is devising ways of causing glass to mimic the formation of topographies. She wants to document “how forces change how things look, things that are from the beginning the same.”
Her approach has the qualities of scientific experimentation. “I always use the same two components. I have a sheet of glass and powdered glass.” She sifts powdered glass through water and so that it accumulates on a flat glass plate. “I build up these layers of powder. I take [the panels] out of the water and let the water run over” in a process intended to mimic the action of rivers and streams. Doing two firings a day Mlasowsky observes the results and attempts to gain some control of technical issues. The base of her improvised pâte de verre curls and the surface cracks. “Once it’s in the kiln it has its own life. I use sediments and water to create structures and then heat changes it to something different. I kind of like how much and how little influence I have.” The cracked, fissured surfaces that she currently obtains suggest the narrative of an unstable landscape: crusted over seething magma, as well as old contracting, weathered, decaying materials: the earth young and hot; old and cold.
Agitating the water using sound waves causes the powder to settle into rippling patterns resembling sand under certain conditions. She has ordered underwater speakers. Noting that “all sound is a kind of wave that nature uses,” she’s curious about the ways animals understand sounds and that sound is apparently the medium through which they sense coming catastrophes, like tsunamis. “We humans cannot hear that; it’s out of our spectrum.” She is deferring some of that research for after her time at WheatonArts. “You’re here for six weeks and you have all these kilns and the whole facility. You want to produce instead of studying on your computer, which you can basically do at home.”
Computers, though, are a key part of Mlasowsky’s work She believes that the instruction of glass students should include computer lessons. She works now on videos and hopes to be able to produce good ones. She also uses the computer as a key way of connecting with family and friends in her native Germany.
She does not yet regard any of the glass panels she has made as finished —or even part or a finished work of art. “I’m not happy with how they look at all now. They’re not anywhere I want to go.” These microcosmic landscapes formed by settling suspensions of particles reflect Mlasowsky’s conviction that processes are more enduring than substance, “There is no steadiness in nature. Nature is constantly in movement.”
On the other hand, she says “I’m working with sound [but] I’m more interested in silence because it’s a state that most people fear. We experience silence as terrifying. People avoid quiet places but even quiet places are not silent.” Thoughts about silence segued to an interest in fog. She is intrigued by the muffling effects of fog and its differing layers of density. “[Fog] reduces things to an essential. I would like to reproduce the silence that fog produces.” A fog-related group of framed reliefs at CGCA was composed by layering matte glass. The pieces of glass are temporarily angled inside a frame, but Mlasowsky struggled with how to organize the layers. Each piece of glass needs to be anchored at three points, but she wants to avoid a self-conscious composition. She doesn’t want to work with curves “it becomes cloudy shapes: like clouds” rather than fog. Perhaps, also, the angles are less harmonious, more suggestive of the potential danger in silence and fog