“Grrndr” is an automated kaleidoscope built in close collaboration with Skitch Manion, Glass Studio Manager at WheatonArts. The project capitalizes on the vast supply of waste glass (cullet) currently being stored in 50-gallon containers a short walk from WheatonArts’ glass furnaces.
Recognizing this bounty as a material resource for an enlarged version of what was once a handheld optical toy (patented by Scottish inventor David Brewster in 1817), Torchia has placed different combinations of these fragments into four drum-like vessels, each 20 inches in diameter. Made from rolled steel and faced with scratch-resistant glass, the drums are turned by a rotary motor regularly used to activate a “ball mill,” a sealed ceramic container designed to grind cullet for melting and reuse.
The four drums—one of which is filled with clear glass, another equipped with two separate object chambers—remain on rotation, like discs in a jukebox, until the fragments inside are ground into powder or sanded into pieces that can no longer be lifted by the clockwise motion of the vessel. The gradual disintegration of this cascading cullet, when seen inside the mirrored viewing prism, is transformed into a progression of constantly evolving symmetrical patterns animated by the unavoidable sounds of shattering glass, which museum visitors hear before they see.
“Grrndr” is part of Emanation 2019, curated by Julie Courtney, featuring the works and creative process of artists Jessie Krimes, Tristin Lowe, Martha McDonald and Laura Baird, Karyn Olivier, Richard Torchia, Allan Wexler, and Jo Yarrington.
You can experience the sounds and imagery produced by Torchia’s kaleidoscope in the Museum of American Glass, open through December 31, 2019, Tuesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.