Stine Bidstrup Essay

Stine Bidstrup Essay

Stine Bidstrup
Winter 2007 Resident

A cluster of fist-sized unfinished spheres in Stine Bidstrup’s studio at WheatonArts suggest the interests of this Winter 2007 Resident Fellow of the Creative Glass Center of America. Each is a model the structure of the eye. At the center of each sphere is a small hollow spot that represents the blind spot at the center of the vision of each eye. Ironically, the point which provides no visual information is located where the optic nerve is joined to the retina. Bidstrup considers this anatomical reality a provocative phenomenon both literally, in terms of visual cognition, and as metonymy. Visually, we can’t see what is most central. Culturally or interpersonally, we are often similarly ignorant.

Much of Bidstrup’s work deliberately confuses or misleads the viewer. Perhaps by undermining our confidence in the validity of what we think we perceive, “we may become more aware and interact better,” she suggests.

Bidstrup’s interest in the way cognition stubs it toes in an unfamiliar context has roots in her own experience. Born and raised in Denmark, she earned a BFA in glass and ceramics before coming to the Rhode Island School of Design in the US. Experiencing different cultures always exposes differences of points of view. At RISD, where she completed a post-baccalaureate program, her ideas about glass “got turned upside-down” as she shifted her interest from the formal qualities of glass to its more optical qualities, shapes that relate to the body, and integrating new materials with glass.

At CGCA, she explored some of these ideas through the construction of doughnut-shaped blown forms containing “worm holes” and twisting möbius surfaces. The complex forms are simultaneously more visible and more confusing because they bear precise grid-based lines. The painstaking technical process involves transferring relatively simple computer-generated graphic patterns onto the glass. These are then sand-blasted, permanently changing the glass surface and stenciled with Paradise Paints which heat fuses to glass. The effect is both scientific (or pseudo-scientific) and highly decorative, suggestive of elaborate historic Venetian latticino work. More than other work she has done, these pieces conflate an unsettling skewing of vision with a sense of morphing space and time. The abstract clarity of mathematics and chaos theory becomes oddly tactile and accessible in these new exploratory works.

A three part video work Double Visions (2006) reveals the power of context and point of view in constructing our understanding. Bidstrup built a model of a section of New York City from mirrored sheets of glass fashioned into small boxes. She then filmed it in three contexts using a small automated camera which moved among the 2 inch tall buildings. Sometimes Bidstrup’s feet can be seen in the background, but the films are easily read as much larger than they are. In addition, the “infinite maze of reflections of itself” incorporates colors and shapes in the environment, giving the three films of the same objects in different contexts a distinctive character.

One was shot indoors in the artist’s studio; one on the roof of a skyscraper in the city; and one in the dessert. Bidstrup sees this trio of videos as a turning point in her work, as it suggests how “modernist cities create and control communities where many people live together. Good intentions can turn out to have the opposite effect,” she observes. The context—whatever it is—is important in shaping what it contains from living people to solidly constructed glass boxes.