Cameo Glass in Context: Charlotte Potter and April Surgent
The Wichita Art Museum could be forgiven for resting on its laurels after the stellar “Monet to Matisse” exhibition closed in May. Instead, the Museum gives us another fascinating round of exhibitions including their current summer show, Cameo Glass in Context: Charlotte Potter and April Surgent (on display through September 8th).
Cameo Glass in Context
Cameo Glass in Context addresses social networks, urban landscapes, and environmental change through Charlotte Potter and April Surgent’s modern approaches to cameo glass. Since its inception in ancient Rome, cameo remains a notoriously fickle medium, making this show particularly impressive. These artists work with extreme care and attention to detail, fusing layers of colored glass, carving with wheels, and etching with acids to stunning effect.
The first major part of the exhibit concentrates on two large installation pieces from Potter. In Charlotte's Web, she weaves an elaborate web of 864 miniature portraits of her Facebook “friends,” arranged according to where they met in person. These portraits are richly varied and the quirky visual shorthand is a joy. Though somewhat fleeting due to its restrictive scale, its charm is winning and its message clear. Pending (Web’s companion installation) is even better, with Potter “challenging the audience to reconceptualize relationships in the digital age, and consider the different thresholds of friendships in our lives.”
Part two of the exhibition focuses on the art of April Surgent. Scenes of urban life and travel contrast newer works informed by months spent in remote environments like Hawaiian atolls, the Farallon Islands, and Antarctica. Surgent’s cities are dense and bustling yet alien and withdrawn; psychological isolation (for better or worse). Her Antarctic travels are especially moving, as beautiful as they are haunting. Throughout, Surgent’s technical mastery achieves such a tangible sense of reality that a work like Portrait of an Iceberg reads more like a window or a portal and might actually drop the temperature around you. While much of this work can feel somber, bereaved, and distant, the human eye receives in each an urgent, timeless plea: to connect, to preserve, not destroy.
To help contextualize the contemporary work from these two artists, fine historical examples of cameo glass from European Art Nouveau, Art Deco, and ancient Rome provide insight and variety including the highlight Aphrodite (1892), a gorgeous plate from British engraver George Woodall.
John Taylor Arms
Along with Cameo Glass in Context, The Wichita Art Museum is host to the WWI era print exhibition Over There, Over Here: American Print Makers Go to War, 1914-1918 (through November 25th), the folksy No Idle Hands: Treasures from the Americana Collection (ongoing), and the Permanent Collection boasting incredible works from the likes of Mary Cassatt, Edward Hopper, Albert Pinkham Ryder, and Stuart Davis. Annual membership gets you unlimited free admission (“Household” is a great deal), discounts at over 300 museums across the country, and the pleasures of some of the finest art in Wichita.