Island artists take glass to a spiritual level
Lynn Nielsen and Barbara Parker are drawn to estate sales, always with an eye out for glass vases.
Nielsen and Parker subsequently smash the vases, some heirlooms, to smithereens — all in the name of art, mind you.
The Galveston Island women are glass artists, working with found glass, stained glass, donated glass, sheet glass, tempered glass, tubular glass and any other glass they can get their hands on.
They take the shards they make of the material and assemble montages that are part sculpture, part dimensional illustration.
“It’s like we paint with glass,” said Nielsen, a veteran photographer who is self-taught in the art of arranging glass into images.
The artists whimsically array their raw material on old, refurbished transoms and other house windows — glass on glass.
“When you put glass on glass, light is reflected, but it’s also obscured,” Nielsen said.
The finished pieces, which also might include natural elements such as starfish and tiny shells — both intact — are then coated with a non-volatile epoxy resin, which, once dry, seals the constituent pieces in place.
The artists work side by side in a studio inside Nielsen’s airy, sun-filled home on the island’s Travis Drive: Translucent Studio Galveston.
“We each do our own thing,” Nielsen said. “We use the same materials, but we each have our own style. We have, however, collaborated on a few pieces, and we do ask one another for opinions.”
The resulting works have proved enduringly popular.
“We’re particular about what we bring into our shop,” said Alma Zepeda, who owns The Marketplace at the Peanut Butter Warehouse in Galveston’s historic downtown, where the duo’s glass art is on permanent display. “We have repeat customers who love their work, which continues to evolve.
“They continue to explore different ways of developing their medium.”
Nielsen and Parker have been making their glass art together for the better part of three years and have displayed, and continue to display, at such spaces as From the HeART Gallery, The Old Galveston Trading Company and at The Marketplace, as well as at the seasonal Evia Spring Market, all on the island.
The resin the artists use to fix their assembled montages in place serves an aesthetic purpose, as well.
“The resin gives it another element,” Zepeda said. “It adds depth.”
Moreover, the creative process has proved therapeutic.
“When I lost my husband to cancer, I thought my life was over,” said Parker, who had fashioned art in other media over the years. “But one day, a friend of mine told me, ‘Barbara, pick up your tools. It will keep you spiritual, and when you are spiritual, you’ll begin to heal.’ She was right; I started healing from my grief.”
After a health scare, Nielsen, too, felt a need to create beyond her photography.
“I made the decision that I was going on this spiritual journey through the artwork,” she said, and termed it therapeutic. “If Barbara and I have frustrations, I just say, ‘Let’s break some glass.’”
The two women have become fast friends in the four years they have known one another.
“I feel like I’ve known her all of my life,” Parker said inside their shared studio, where glass of all hues and descriptions are at hand. “We laugh a lot in the studio, we cry a lot in the studio. It feels like a sacred space.”
There is, as well, in the studio, a sense of connection between the artists and their raw material.
“When we break tempered glass, 10 minutes later it will pop,” Parker said. “So, to me that means it holds energy, which I feel we absorb in working with it.”