Fall 2012 Fellow
At the time of her Fall, 2012 residency in the Creative Glass Center of America, Hope Rovelto was still mastering some techniques of working with glass. “I’m learning a ton,” she said in her studio. “I’ve always been interested in glass and I have many friends in glass.” Although clay is her primary medium, she has assisted glass blowers in the past and is a member of the Burnt Asphalt Family, a glass performance troupe. One thing that draws her to glass is that “Glass is always team-driven. It’s good to be in a hot shop and on a team. I like learning together.”
“My work is very autobiographical” Rovelto acknowledges. “It’s the thing that helps me heal. What it’s not [for] is to make people feel pity for me.” Rovelto’s advocacy for a more humane health care system has become more passionate since she was hit by a car on Nov. 4, 2010, about a year before her CGCA residency. She’s had multiple surgeries on both legs and now faces enormous medical bills. Although she is now active and capable, she is still in physical therapy. She long wished to work more with glass and since the accident her interest has grown. Ceramics, previously her primary medium, is physically too demanding. Rovelto sees her residency as a transitional period during which she can develop more skills. “This is my year to figure things out,” she said. “Growing is an act of will. “My healing process was an act of will. Believing in yourself is an act of will.”
“There are certain topics that won’t go away, topics that are hard to discuss.” At WheatonArts, Rovelto worked on glass versions of ideas she had previously executed in ceramics and wood. Qualities of glass, including transparency and brittleness, become part of the meaning of an artwork. “Each material and each process can cater to an idea. Each has an impact on the story.” Although many of her current projects relate to her current situation, they pre-date the accident and were initially inspired by her mother’s cancer and her grandmother’s health issues.
An installation presented in 2009 at the Fleisher Art Memorial involved cast porcelain versions of chairs suited to people at different stages of life. From a high chair to a wheel chair with many alternatives—including a walker – in between: “The scenario of my Mom’s life,” she notes. A striking quality of the chairs was their fragility. Preserving the sagging flexibility of raw clay, they seemed wobbly and provisional. The same chairs in glass will repeat the motif in a cooler, even more breakable, potentially more dangerous and startling medium for a chair. The visual openness and almost anti-corporeal visual qualities of glass will enhance the sense that a chair, though an object of repose, is only a temporary resting place.
The mutability of meaning illustrated by Joseph Kosuth’s seminal conceptual piece One and Three Chairs (1965) is a point of reference that Rovelto has appropriated. “You always have to figure out a smart way to say something,” she reflects. At WheatonArts, a puzzle-like “U.S. money map” was originally cast in clay, but will perhaps be more effective in clear glass. “You can see right through the United States,” she jokes. Rovelto also wants to make a lot of pill bottles in tinted glass, perhaps many shades of light green. She will mount these in a grid on the wall, arranging the colors so that from a distance they resolve into an image à la Chuck Close.
For a series of portrait-based pieces intended to be displayed in a large installation, she is casting wooden plaques representing the presidents’ faces in zircor and graphite to be cast in glass and incorporated in glass flasks. Her ambition extends to eventually showing this work at Penn Station. “I want to conquer and make really clean and precise glass pieces,” she says, but she feels she is still struggling for the precision she desires. “It’s humbling working with glass.”
Written by Robin Rice