The Awesome Power and Fragility of Glass: A Relevant Metaphor and Guiding Principle for Artists, Citizens and Nations
Let me tell you a brief story of how my glass sculpture, Flying Sheets of Paper, was born. My business partner and I were brainstorming intensively about new ways for making sculptures from glass and light. We walked around the studio, discussing the question of how human power could be mirrored by glass and light. As always, I made many impulsive statements, and as always, he tried to tone them down. But there was a special energy in the atmosphere. And suddenly the white paper sheets with my designs sketched on them began flying through the air!
What pushed them to fly? Was it wind from the open window? Or was it the synergy between me and my business partner? As we watched the sheets of paper flying through the air, the idea for Flying Sheets of Paper was born! You could say that my journey to Tampere began that day.
As a visual artist, I am very conscious of the physical world around me. Working with glass opens creative windows into amazing spaces of light and color. You have the miraculous experience of seeing glass and often looking through it. You also have the unique experience of touching the glass, and feeling both its strength and fragility.
In addition to raw beauty and timeless mystery, glass offers a relevant metaphor for our lives as artists and citizens. It is strong and it is weak; it is delicate and it is bold. A large glass sculpture such as Flying Sheets of Paper is lovely and frightening at the same time. You can say that all art should be beautiful and scary, but when you create large sculptures in glass, the fear factor is inescapable.
Glass is not an ordinary substance. We learn in school that glass is a “supercooled liquid,” but real scientists will tell you that glass is neither fully solid nor fully liquid. From a scientific perspective, glass exists in a state of ambiguity. We unconsciously sense that ambiguity – and the physical danger it presents – whenever we are near glass.
For an artist, the danger of glass creates a new dimension for exploration. In addition to sculpting from glass, I use it in all kinds of unexpected places: floors, ceilings, stairs and building facades. I use glass with a sense of humor to create playful spaces and unexpected experiences that delight, surprise and amuse us.
The ability of glass to tell stories and inspire the imagination is what makes it a highly valuable medium for creating positive experiences and good vibes in modern cities. In cities, there is always the possibility of danger. Glass reminds us that danger is also a spice that enlivens, emboldens and inspires us. Like a good roller coaster ride at an amusement park or a scary movie in a theater, glass makes us smile by exposing hidden dimensions of our emotional lives.
From my perspective, the very fragility of glass gives it great power. It’s more than a metaphor; it’s a companion and a friend. As we move through our often difficult lives, glass reminds us that it’s okay to laugh at power, because power is illusory. Through glass, we see the world in different ways. As human beings, that’s part of our job – always looking at the world through fresh eyes. Glass is our shared medium for gazing at the universe around us and always seeing something new.
You can watch a video of Flying Sheets of Paper, a collaborative effort with Finland’s top glass manufacturer Glaston Corporation, and other major firms including Saas Instrumentti and Schott. Please enjoy the video. I will also be speaking next month at TWINKLE, the international business conference in Tampere, Finland. The name of my presentation is “Jump Through the Glass, Into the Glory of Radiant Light.” If you are able to attend, I look forward to seeing you there!
World renowned artist Meeli Koiva, also known as Mery Crystal Ra, is a glass and lighting sculptor and painter. A pioneer in combining glass and light to create extraordinary works of art, she creates highly imaginative and novel pieces in Europe and in the US for private residences and public buildings. Her innovative glass-light sculptures were created for the European Parliamentmain building exhibition in Brussels, Belgium 2006 and Glaston Corporation headquarters in Finland, Tampere 2009.