Erica Rosenfeld Essay
Spring 2007 Fellow
Erica Rosenfeld believes that people ground themselves through rituals. She herself has a virtually lifelong devotion to repetition and ritual. The Spring 2007 Fellow at the Creative Glass Center of America began beading at the age of five and never quit. She explored and expanded on that process-oriented practice as a college student and continues to the present day. At Kenyon College (BA, 1997) she studied metals, focusing on jewelry, and art history, religion and religious art. Her interest in the later topics can be understood as an aspect of her practice as an artist.
Following college, Rosenfeld moved to San Franciscowhere she began to work with glass in a serious way. She made glass beads and small multi-colored tiles, both of which she arranges in jewelry and beaded tapestry-related wall pieces. Color is key to Rosenfeld’s impressions of an environment and to her work. Her preference for matte surfaced glass may grow out of a desire for the maximum saturation of color uninterrupted by reflections, but she has also mentioned her enjoyment of the texture of glass. The 2006 wall piece L.A., C.A, 1984 records her memory of the color palette of Los Angeles. Rhythmic patterns of rectangles and smooth curves suggest theL.A.’s high energy, sunny, insouciant urbanity.
When Rosenfeld relocated to Brooklyn and began teaching at Urban Glass, her beading practice was temporarily displaced, but not replaced, by learning to blow glass (“The first time you’re in front of that glory hole, it’s so hot!”). She fused beads and tiles in a kiln and devoted herself to cold working, an activity she loves (in contrast to many glass blowers). She uses the painstaking somewhat ritualized process not merely to grind away sharp edges but to shape, refine and design.
In editioned wearable art works, the aggregation of brightly-colored bits of glass becomes what Rosenfeld describes as “the weirdest, craziest jewelry” imaginable and a reliable source of income. Rosenfeld makes a lot of jewelry and also teaches at Urban Glass. She generally devotes the time at the end of the day to patterned sculptural pieces: larger in scale and content-driven. Rosenfeld’s CGCA fellowship allowed her to devote all her time to independent works of art.
Especially in these, the accretion of elements conveys ideas. Tiny seed beads and murrinis join larger beads; small tesserae-like single color tiles are fused with larger ones. Rosenfeld likes to reheat fused flat glass and shape it into slumped panels. For other works, she weaves modules into larger compositions with filament, (heavy-duty fishing line) and attaches them to wire mesh. The resulting shallow relief can then be shaped to enhance its three-dimensionality. This layering process is organic: It’s not strictly modular, but it suggests modularity. It is not rigidly grid-based and yet it does rely on grids, often with a kind of morphing. All that meticulous, labor-intensive, and time-consuming work pays off in microcosm/macrocosm patterning which is endlessly engaging.
Rosenfeld likes activities which contrast with the solitary aspects of beading. “Craving collaboration,” is one reason she enjoys hot working glass as a member of a team. She also finds “moving my body more” a welcome alternative to sitting. In 2005, she worked as assistant to Klaus Moje, who developed with Bullseye glass the “Australian roll up.” Rosenfeld has adapted the technique, slicing the roll of cast and other glass elements to make beads.
Her grandmother died a couple of years ago and while sorting through her possessions, Rosenfeld was struck by the range of stories which open with material associations like, “I remember that handbag…” Sometimes she uses personal vintage fabrics like upholstery from her father’s or grandfather’s old furniture to bring a sense of the past to her work.
People and families define themselves through such stories, oft-repeated with a patterned, ritualized character. Rosenfeld’s palette for the 2004 Wedding Quilt is suited to beginnings: spring like, with an emphasis on greens and blues. The wall-based work seems to conflate the colorful Interlocking circles in the wedding ring quilt pattern (traditionally given to a newly married couple) with open rectangular frame-like elements. These are shapes one might associate with photograph albums or wall displays of photographs. Of course, Rosenfeld used the complex peyote stitch (almost a form of weaving) to execute the straight-line beading which is intrinsic to this piece.
In the past, Rosenfeld has sometimes placed a written story in a pocket worked into a tapestry. At CGCA, she had the leisure to do more writing and to think of infusing narrative even more profoundly into her work.