Anne Petters Essay by Robin Rice

Anne Petters Essay by Robin Rice

Anne Petters
Summer 2012 Fellow

Over the thousands of years glass has been made, one might imagine that every technique of hand-forming hot glass would have been thoroughly explored but a young German artist, Anne Petters, has developed a personal twist that may well be unique. The Summer 2012 Resident Fellow at the Creative Glass Center of America heats flat layers of powdered glass in a shallow mold until they resolve into a coherent sheet. When the surface begins to bubble, she pries up the sheet with heavily insulated gloves and glass-blower’s tweezers. She swiftly bends and folds it, manipulating it into a three-dimensional shape as it cools, becoming a three-dimensional abstract form of curves and angles with fragile margins. The process demands deft, unhesitating sensitivity and speed.

Petters has about 30 seconds to implement her perception of the rapidly-changing ductility of a particular sheet of glass from “the moment of ripping it off the mold.” She says, “I shape it with my hands. Whatever happens at that very moment is what happens. “It’s very process-based. It’s like freezing a moment in time. I want it to look like a fabric in the wind.”

Petters layers drawing and writing onto the mold to merge with one surface of the sheets of påte-de-verre. The delicate white or dark lines embed themselves in the pale crystalline, opaque but light-permeable surface. The improvisational immediacy of these markings made by the artist parallels her sensibility in forming the sculpture in which they will be preserved. The language of these quite abstract drawings developed over years. An exploration of interior mental space in a kind of visual and textual stream-of-consciousness sets the over-arching context. “It’s always a combination of text and lines and when you look closer the text becomes a drawing. I write in different directions [so the lines of writing function in a drawing-like mode]. I write backward. Letters and words are reversed so they will be legible on the fused glass. I discovered that writing backward is beautiful. My normal handwriting doesn’t look that beautiful.” Petters notices that her favorite drawing motifs reoccur. This brings consistency to works in the series.

There is discipline in Petters’ rigorous avoidance of over-thinking or over-planning. Although they incorporate recognizable words and phrases, Petters’ writings are vague and elliptical. The markings, distinct from recognizable orthography, are almost a proto-language, patterns coalescing out of chaos. “Joseph Beuys called drawing “the communication of thought’,” she says. Just as the three-dimensional sheets are crystallized movement, the drawings are crystallized thoughts.

Writing and drawing in white for Petters relates to plants, to growth. She feels some white markings are “about” cell division though not representations of it. Writing and drawing in black embodies more shadowed content. The images are “representative of more a black unknown soul — the opposite of the white things — the emotional unconscious perhaps. Not bad thinking” she hastens to add, “but unconscious. They feel like something dark, like fear, discomfort. I say [to myself], ‘What am I afraid of? Why do I have this thing in me?’ [But] it’s positive to know I can look at and touch an image of this feeling.”
Within art that is intensely personal, one often discovers a kind of universality. Petters says, “I hope my work is somewhat accessible, but I’m not trying to make work that is accessible. These pieces are based on an inner space in which we think and imagine things.”

Written by Robin Rice