Wheaton Conversations: Amber Cowan with Mary Mills

Wheaton Conversations:
Amber Cowan with Mary Cheek Mills

Watch the December 7, 2023 recording above

Amber Cowan integrates her own blown and flameworked elements with pressed factory glass to create lush wall installations and free-standing sculptures. Join Cowan and curator Mary Mills as they discuss her work and the current exhibition, Alchemy of Adornment, on view at the Museum of American Glass through December. They will share how they worked collaboratively to interpret the art alongside objects from the Museum collection and to provide context for the rich historical colors in Cowan’s work.

This event is part of “Wheaton Conversations,” a virtual series highlighting a diverse community of Artists!
To see the full schedule of conversations, Click Here

Wheaton Conversations is generously presented by PNC Arts Alive! and the Art Alliance for Contemporary Glass.

Photo of Amber Cowan standing to the right of and facing a mint green piece of her glass art. The piece is mounted on a white wall and is comprised of small pieces of mint green glass in the shape of various things from nature such as flowers, leaves, and mushrooms. The pieces make up the background and ground of the piece. Two larger mint green glass frogs are placed on the ground of the piece. One frog is inside a mint green cave in the center. Amber has her brown hair tied back with some loose strands in the front and is wearing a cream long-sleeved sweater rolled up slightly on the arm. Amber is reaching to touch one of the glass pieces on the ground portion of the work.

Amber Cowan’s sculptural glass work is based around using recycled, upcycled, and second-life American pressed glass and industrial scrap. She uses the process of flameworking, hot-sculpting, and glassblowing to create sculptures that overwhelm the viewer with ornate abstraction and viral accrual. Her work incorporates collected antique glass elements that activate and animate the material into a visual story of historical objects through a contemporary lens.

Cowan lives and works in Philadelphia, where she received an MFA in Glass from the Tyler School of Art and Architecture of Temple University. She has been a faculty member of the Tyler Glass Department since 2011. Cowan was awarded the 2023 Delphi Award from The Smithsonian Women’s Committee, a 2021 United States Artists Fellowship in Crafts, and was the recipient of the 2014 Rakow Commission from The Corning Museum of Glass. Her September 2023 show at Heller Gallery was reviewed in The New York Times. Her work can be found in the permanent collections of over a dozen museums in the US and worldwide, including The Museum of Art and Design, New York, The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, and The Shanghai Museum of Glass.

Headshot of Mary Mills. Mary is wearing a black shirt and has shoulder-length light and dark hair.

Mary Cheek Mills is the Director of Exhibitions and Collections at WheatonArts and curator of the current Museum of American Glass exhibition, Amber Cowan: Alchemy of Adornment. She is also the historic glass specialist for AECOM cultural resources, where she assists archaeologists in identifying and interpreting glass artifacts recovered in Philadelphia. In conjunction with this project, she curated the 2016 WheatonArts exhibition, From the Ground Up: Archaeology, Artisans, Everyday Life. She is the founding director of the I-95 Archaeology Center and editor of the digital publication River Chronicles: The Journal of Philadelphia Waterfront Heritage & Archaeology. 

 From 2005 to 2013, Mills held the position of Education Programs Manager at the Corning Museum of Glass, where she previously received the Richards Award for Research in American Glass and is now a Fellow. She taught American and European glass history for graduate programs at the Cooper-Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, and Sotheby’s Institute of Art. Mills earned her master’s from the University of Delaware Winterthur Program in Early American Culture, for which she continues to lecture. She is on the board of The Neustadt Collection of Tiffany Glass and previously served on the Wheaton Arts and Cultural Center board.