Deborah Czeresko Essay by Robin Rice
Fall 2006 Fellow
Deborah Czeresko, a Fall, 2006 Resident Fellow at the Creative Glass Center of America, makes working with glass sound like true love. “It’s like the meeting of two souls: the soul of the material and the soul of the maker.” Like the two faces of a single coin, the fusion of difference is Czeresko’s artistic vision.
Designing and constructing purposeful glass objects like chandeliers for specific architectural settings is this artist’s bread and butter professionally and emotionally. “Glass looks so beautiful with light coming through it and the magical quality of light is so powerful. This one little piece — one little unit of glass— can effect the entire room.”
Utilizing the paradoxical “wizardry” of glass, a material which appears weightless but is, in fact, heavy, is one challenge. Another is to “know when to let the glass breathe.” Often glass in Czeresko’s work is framed in metal. In a modern rather minimal interior, especially a public one like a restaurant, lighting design becomes a focus of visual, aesthetic interest. Sometimes her work has the serene straightforward object-ness of Donald Judd’s iconic box-like sculpture. But unlike Judd, Czeresko seeks a balance between the rigor of squares and spheres, a simplicity she loves, and the visible records of the artist’s hand at work. She feels that her “sixth sense:” being able to find that balance is an important asset. “I make a decision: ‘Oh I love that moment!’ I think that the person who is using [the object] feels that.”
She recently worked with the well-known American painter Jennifer Bartlett who was designing a functional line of glass. Bartlett’s paintings, often on metal panels, contain representational elements but are typically divided into a grid of squares. Other basic geometric shapes are emphasized, but Bartlett also likes the accidental effects of poured or dripped paint.
Bartlett asked Czeresko “What’s the hardest thing to do [in blown glass]?” Czeresko replied that working alone and making the thinnest possible cylinder in the fewest moves is the biggest challenge. The two decided that Czeresko would fabricate a series of cylinders which might be drinking glasses and vases. Intentionally, none was perfect but each represented an attempt at perfection.
Czeresko’s largest commission so far (for a restaurant she can’t name because it hasn’t opened yet) is a 30-foot wall constructed of 15,000 cast L-shaped bricks: almost an “homage to the brick.” Clear but too thick to be transparent, the long expanse of glass will respond to changing light throughout the day. She experiences the structure as a “peaceful mood-altering, mellowing” addition to the environment.
The “brick wall” commission was not Czeresko’s favorite of the three she proposed to the client. She hopes to execute her favorite at Wheaton Arts. This wall will suggest a landscape through rods, each four feet long with an oval cross-section. Linked together by stainless steel, the colored glass will suggest the meeting sky and sea in greens and blues.
Curiously, Czeresko has little of her own work in her personal living space. She feels more comfortable living with a more casual aesthetic and thinks minimal stainless steel and geometric glass would look out of place in her old building where everything is “sort of off kilter.” However, she enjoys visiting her work in other places.
A side of her art that she does display in her home is humorous, “riding the fine line of good taste.” She also shares it with the public. Having learned that the largest Cheeto in the world had just been purchased by a town in Iowa, she offered to make a display stand for it. The ping-pong size puff was already protected in a bullet proof case, where it was displayed in a plastic margarita glass. Czeresko replaced the plastic with a pedestal of bright orange Venetian cane work. The Cheeto now rests on this, cushioned on a pillow she had upholstered in royal purple. She delivered the accessories in person. “That was really fun: taking the trek to meet the Cheeto.”