Recognize that ‘Sunburst’ artwork at Mia? Here are 5 other glass artists to know

Recognize that ‘Sunburst’ artwork at Mia? Here are 5 other glass artists to know

Few Minnesotans have wandered into the Minneapolis Institute of Art and not spotted, hanging from the ceiling, the golden, squiggly “Sunburst” glass artwork by Dale Chihuly.

But who are other great glass artists?

A new exhibition has answers. The Cafesjian Art Trust Museum’s “From Origins to Horizons: The American Studio Glass Movement” explores the development of the studio glass movement in the United States. The Shoreview-based museum is home to more than 4,000 glass artworks, and executive director Andy Schlauch wants the public to know the artform beyond the nearly 50 Chihuly works in its collection.

Unlike other art movements, America’s studio glass movement is new, beginning in the early 1960s. The artist who started it, Harvey K. Littleton, is included in this show.

“This was really the first time an artist was given the material of glass to be able to make sculpture,” Schlauch said. “It began with Harvey K. Littleton and Dominick Labino setting the stage, so to speak. Until then, [glass] was relegated to factory work.”

The Star Tribune caught up with Schlauch and asked him to highlight the five most important glass artworks in the show. (There is a Chihuly among the show’s 43 works, but it didn’t make his list.)

Harvey K. Littleton

Known as the father of the studio glass movement, Littleton built a furnace and started workshops in 1962 at the Toledo Museum of Art. His smooth, almost glowing glass work “Double Arch” calls to mind the Gateway Arch in St. Louis, but it also looks like pieces of chopped-up licorice or even a giant red macaroni. “It is multiple layers of colored and clear glass encased in one layer over another and then cooled and then arched and then carved,” Schlauch said. Littleton went on to start the first glass art program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Chihuly was one of his students.

Dominick Labino

A glass scientist, Labino helped Littleton with the technical pieces of those first glassblowing workshops. (He figured out how to melt glass at lower temperatures and at smaller scales.) Trained as an engineer, Labino worked for a company that made fiber optics in Grand Rapids, Ohio, outside Toledo, and holds patents for more than 60 industrial glass processes. Labino’s sculpture “Emergence” looks like a purple candle enclosed in glass. “He really tried to understand the material, because at the beginning of the studio glass movement, no one knew anything about glassblowing,” Schlauch said. “It was purely experimental.”

Matthew Szösz

This experimental artist created a signature style of glassworks that appear to be delicate, precarious objects plucked from alternate dimensions. Szösz created his own process, which involves putting ceramic paper between layers of glass, resulting in works that have a hollow body but then come out of the kiln soft, with air injected into them. “That object is interesting because it resembles the least of any specific kind of thing that I can think of,” Schlauch said. “It’s this inflated object, and you get to enjoy the lines and cells.”

Amber Cowan

Cowan is going green with glass, working with found and waste glass through upcycling processes. “She is making a conscious choice to incorporate found and vintage glass objects, like the cupcake display,” Schlauch said. She also gathers broken glass off of factory floors, for example. “And she then torches that and reimagines it and breathes new life into it by creating the floral motif that you see surrounding the vintage and found objects in the center.”

Anthony Amoako-Attah

Amoako-Attah calls glass art a Western material. He was born and raised in Ghana, but studied glass in the United Kingdom. “I think it’s interesting that he refers to it as a Western material but uses it to integrate the patterns of Kente cloth that are so integral and important in his community in Ghana,” Schlauchsaid. To make this work, he sifted glass powder through a silkscreen over plate glass and fused it. “But when you look at it, it still looks like fabric.”


When: Through Oct. 5.

Where: Cafesjian Art Trust Museum, 4600 Churchill St., Shoreview.

Hours: 10 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Thu.-Sat.

Info: (612) 359-8991 or

Cost: Free, but reservations are required.