Bringing People Together With Glass

When most people hear the phrase “census data,” they automatically imagine statistics and graphs. Yet City Lab reports that Michigan artist Norwood Viviano has taken a more creative approach by translating urban population data into his glass art.

Viviano has 25 crystalline pieces currently hanging from the ceiling of the Chrysler Museum of Art in Norfolk, Virginia. Each one represents the population trajectory of an American city, tracing as far back as 400 years ago.

Beginning with 3-D computer models, each glass form was painstakingly hand-blown to ensure the correct proportions.

The length of each piece corresponds to the time since that city was founded, while the width represents the density of the population. Changes in color of the piece indicate some sort of historic shift at the time.

Viewing Viviano’s work against the stark white walls of the museum show some interesting trajectories in city populations.

For example, his New York piece almost resembles a Jellyfish because the population hasn’t stopped increasing since 1850. In contrast, cities like Flint and Detroit, Michigan who have experiences huge boosts and harsh falls in their economy in the past take on a diamond-like shape.

“Glass is this really nice material to talk about the fragility of something,” said Viviano. “The fact that these objects cannot stand on their own becomes almost a metaphor for the shifting nature of the economy, with the need to plan for the future.”

Rather than trying to convey a specific message through his art, Viviano wants viewers to put it into their own context.

According to the Fairfax County Times, overseas, another glass blowing artist is trying to raise awareness about communities with a more public showing of his glass artwork.

Martin Donlin, one of the world’s leading architectural glass artists, created a series of floor-to-ceiling glass panels at the Silver Line’s McLean Metro Station. The process was long and complex, taking Donlin since 2008 to complete it.

Donlin’s boldly colored glass panels are somewhat abstract but are meant to represent the endless variety of the train passengers.

The images also have poems etched into the surface from a number of poets from Virginia, each meant to emanate different moods that relate to the variety of the human condition.

While introducing Donlin at the McLean Project for the Arts (MPA) event to honor his work, Laurent Odde, the new Metro Arts in Transit program manager, said, “See how public art and art in general can bring community together… [and] add enjoyment to going to the station.”

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