Glass breakers don’t belong with glass makers. Or do they? Yasuko Miyazaki was chosen for a residency at the Creative Glass Center of America largely because she breaks glass in provocative and original ways.
The act of damaging is just one expression, though a primary one, of Miyazaki’s expansive creative vision. The recipient of a 2006 MFA at Nagoya University, she often appears to make glass a stand-in for the crust of the earth. It is warped, cracked, fragmented, and shifted by Miyazaki’s hands representing powerful tectonic forces. Miyazaki describes the resulting rather minimal works, each originally a single large sheet of plate glass, as landscape-like “views”, but they could equally be geological models, representations of glaciers or tectonic plates.
“I like scale and big concepts,” she says. Possibly her feeling for scale grows out of the 12 years of study of calligraphy which began at the age of five with a well-known teacher at the Takahashi school. Her mother, who is a landscape painter, studied simultaneously at the same school. The calligrapher learns to write the same words in different sizes and contexts, to make the same brush strokes in different scales and to evaluate the effects of large brushes and large gestures with small brushes and small gestures. The calligrapher must become adept at abstraction, representing signs in ways which can be varied according to visual relationships and according to the idea which she wishes to express.
Miyazaki’s series of untitled glass “views” is comprised of two sequences. For the first, she stabilized the sheet of glass with tape before cracking it. Force pushes out ridges and folds in valleys. (If the sheet were flipped over, the valleys would be exalted and mountains transformed into gorges. This chiasmus is a perspective on the earth’s surface and its arbitrary configuration that we seldom consider.)
Miyazaki does not subject her primal glass geography to erosion but to fire as she places the shattered but intact sheet into a kiln and heats it. The tape burns away leaving a mostly transparent surface and its wounds begin to fuse and it slumps slightly. She ends the heating process when the sheet is stabilized, its raw edges bonded but not heated enough to lose their faceted angularity. The finished work is a study in shifting lights and shadows.
A second group, the “views” landscape works, was made by stabilizing a sheet of glass with silicone before applying force. These structures have similar qualities to the taped work but there is no heat fusing. They are more paradoxical: harsh where broken surfaces remain exposed and softer where the almost velvety layer of silicone mutes light and stretches over wounds smoothing the surface. The jagged glass crust is united by the translucent but frosty-looking synthetic, which is, incidentally, chemically related to glass.
Recent installations by Miyazaki are composed of large blown glass bubbles, ovoid in shape and clear. These have been treated like the sheets of glass, stabilized with tape or silicone and dropped. They are dented but oddly intact. Webs of cracks make grid-like patterns. Miyazaki combines deformed spheres of glossy clear (taped and reheated glass) with silicone-muted ones in a single grouping. At CGCA, one of her projects was to produce more of these blown pieces for future use —— or breakage.
These hollow and enclosed (though cracked) vessels are Miyazaki’s most minimal works. There’s no place for the projection of illusion. They do not suggest a different scale from what is actually present. They are filled with air and light, formally engaging and somehow organic but not resonant with specific meanings.
Previously, the primary exception to Miyazaki’s use of clear glass was an installation composed of broken fragments of plate glass, all lacquered a glossy grey blue. She places them in a pile, that, again, like the “views,’ suggests an enlarged geological scale: perhaps a rock slide. Or perhaps it these blue strata could be ice. It might represent the ruins of an architectural work, but it seems too clean and glossy for that. The installation is labor-intensive; it must be dismantled and packed up piece by piece after each exhibition.
This 2005 installation Slowly Die “is about natural processes, about time.” Miyazaki says, “Broken glass is beautiful. Breaking is very very interesting. Breaking is dying, leaving.”
Miyazaki is continuing her work with these forms by moving into color. She has sprayed paint onto the glass and plans to low colored glass ovoids as well. She also wants to sandblast and crack mirrors and to do some sand casting of pod-like shapes, perhaps a ship, “a Noah’s Ark” containing people looking for land.