Jim Butler | Artist-in-Residence at The Studio

Jim Butler | Artist-in-Residence at The Studio


For anyone to see my work or understand
it I think it’s really important to understand that I’m a painter I came to glassblowing in a kind of
circuitous route back in the late 90s when my paintings were increasingly
about transparent forms and transparent objects and many of these I was actually making myself they began as plastic objects some of them began to incorporate elements of glass so I had the crazy idea that not only you know
was I painting these objects at a very large scale you know these things
were hand fashioned and sort of tabletop but I was painting them on a
monumental scale: eight, nine feet across and I thought oh I’d like to
see these objects at this size you know in three dimensions I’ll just um well
make them in glass and so that’s what started me really to realize the
potentials of the medium also the limitations of the material and it
quickly led me kind of down a rabbit hole of what the material’s
relationship to painting is. It’s always amazing to me as
a painter… Painting is like writing, you know, it’s completely abstract there’s no there there Right? Like if you’re right if
you’re sitting in a room and you’re writing a novel or a screenplay all
you’ve got are these abstract symbols on a piece of paper and fundamentally
that’s the same in painting, right, I mean you have the physicality of this goo, um, but you’re alone and all of your successes and frustrations are, uh, they’re kind of a solitary experience. Glassblowing is entirely different–it’s like playing music. You depend on and conjure it with the participation of other people and
that fundamental difference…I’m …I’m addicted to really. It’s–I find
it incredibly energizing and not just in terms of the immediate
experience I think that it has made lasting…it’s made lasting artistic
impact on how I think and, you know, art’s not made in a vacuum and it
requires community and the great thing about glassblowing is that that
community happens in real time in a room. Only that time. Like seeing a live
performance and glassblowing in a way reminds me of that it’s you have these
these physical objects which are… …Yeah they’re sculptural
entities and they have their own internal energy but really what they are
are visible and tactile record of that one-time experience.
And, there’s something really…I don’t know Like if three people make something which is the case here you know I’m working with a couple of just phenomenal glass
blowers, I mean, unbelievable like unbelievable musicians, right, and there’s just
something that happens in that 90 minutes that takes to make something
sort of this big that you know has intentionality that really those three
people really are the ones who understand what actually happened and I
find that really remarkable. It’s given me a different sense of time actually.
There was a comment actually of a friend of mine who’s a terrific sculptor and he
once was commenting on an exhibition and these were sculptures and the comment
was oh yeah this is what happens… this is so typical of when painters make sculpture.
And it only stuck in my head because what he meant was that there was
a lack of three dimensionality, you know, an in-the-round experience. I actually
thought about that and still do as being a potential fertile ground for this
confluence of two- and three-dimensions. But I’d say around 2005 or so, I became
aware of how to make photographic decal imagery using high fire ceramic toners and that allowed me to inject imagery into this amorphous you know, swimming, refracted light of
glass. So those two things two- and three- dimensions are now sort of pulled
together at least in what I’m doing trying to do and then those in turn are
going up on the wall as three-dimensional objects yet you see them as an image because they have images in them. The imagery comes from a lot
of different places, I think that I used to use the word “story” and I
think that’s important I…My paintings essentially are if they don’t tell
stories directly they have narrative undercurrents and
periodically my work has had more or less of that. So, using the decal imagery photographic imagery or photographing my drawings and then
turning that into glass imagery The stories because I’m seeing them
episodically as physical objects, um… Right now I have, I will have, three complete wall arrangements and they are political and sociological in nature in terms of
the narrative. This is much more of a direct storytelling than my paintings
are which tend to be more enigmatic as an image. You know if I was gonna
actually extend an analogy of being a musician, but different recording studios,
different ways that musicians relate to a space and just the whole
ambience of time and place you know they all matter! And Corning is…
it’s entirely unique, The Studio, which is a public studio, you know, has all kinds
of folks who come through and are working and, you know, that can… in some situations, you know, it can be kind of crazy or not crazy or what have you–
it’s really a very calm it’s controlled it’s… and yet–the only way
I can put this–it’s artistically humane It allows… there there’s an
energy in The Studio that really allows for your your head to expand.

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