A friend of mine, Roberta Hickey, gave me some literature and advised, “Carol, you should go see this glass display, especially the work of Irene Frolic.”
On Friday, November 5, my husband and I went to the Canadian Clay and Glass Gallery, to see GLASS FACTOR: Luminaries in the Canadian Art Scene. There were approximately 100 works there, but I had eyes only for Irene Frolic’s work.
Her glass heads captivated me.
This piece is one of Frolic’s older works, and is part of a series:
My sculptures have, in the past, been concerned with the link between the psychology of the human face and the geology of the enduring rock of our land – “Portrait” and the “How to Live in the World” series. The surfaces were opaque, and like the Shield, worn by the passage of time. Glass is the perfect medium, because like the centre of our earth, it is made by fire.
Gloria Hickey describes Frolic’s approach in the March/91 issue of New Glass,
It is true that Irene Frolic’s sculptures are made from cast glass, but her real raw material is emotion. Emotion determines the form and character of the human heads she is best known for. Modeling first in clay, Frolic prefers not to use tools. She uses her fingers — to smooth brows, pinch noses and caress cheeks from the responsive clay. Her fingers coax out form and pass on emotion in the alert flare of a nostril, the sleeping tranquility of sleeping lips, the introspective curve of a neck.
Frolic is fond of the continuous line that extends from forehead to nose tip . . . . She explains that “the fragility of the glass will show here. This curve exactly fits the crook of my hand – my hands understand how a face must be. Sometimes I think, this is how God must feel.”
This is a moving statement, but there is more to it than that. You see, Irene Frolic is a Holocaust survivor. Some would be surprised that she isn’t still cursing God rather than identifying with how God might feel. Frolic puts it this way:
What it was that I was working through, as many of you know, is that I’m a Holocaust survivor and somehow this whole idea of glass and fires of annihilation and the fires in the kiln and everything, it just took hold of me and held me gently and fiercely for almost ten years while I worked through certain things in my work.
Then there came a time when she could put being a survivor behind her:
I just had had enough of it and I somehow put it away . . . . I wanted to make works of beauty, which I think I have, because I thought we need more of that and that’s helpful.
Once again, Irene Frolic serves as a testament to how the human spirit can shine through whatever darkness befalls it. Creating beauty is her answer for how to live in the world.
* Glass Art Canada: Artist Gallery ~ Irene Frolic
* Contemporary Canadian Glass, Living Glass History: Interview with Irene Frolic, November 5, 2009
* An interview with art journalist and curator, Gloria Hickey, in Craft and Culture Magazine.
Hickey feels that it’s vital for a curator to try to bridge the gap between the artist and the public. “Being a curator is like being a midwife,” she says. “I’m trying to help the artist achieve something, deliver what’s there, what’s potential.”
In her experience, artists are almost always enthusiastic about working with a curator. “There’s a dialogue established,” she says, “and that’s often a new experience for artists. They can get to understand their own work better–talk it over with someone rather than the one-way communication of the artist’s presentation. I can help artists, sometimes, to see exactly what it is that they’re trying to do, and what they’re accomplishing.”
If you are interested in kiln formed glass, there is an amazing book called Techniques of Kiln-formed glass, by Keith Cummings, which features “Let Me Hide Myself In Thee” (from the How to Live In The World series), on page 118. (It is available at Amazon.com and Amazon.ca.)
The explanatory note for “Let Me Hide Myself In Thee” states:
Irene Frolic’s work gains its effect from the sheer quality of the original modelled forms and the copper staining that changes during firing. After the clay is removed from the glass refractory mould, the inside surfaces are coated with glue and a copper powder mixture. Plate window glass is used for the cast, and depending on precise kiln conditions, a whole range of colours are fired into the glass as the copper encounters different conditions. These colors vary from black and yellow, to blue, green and red, and undoubtedly depend largely on the oxygen rich or oxygen poor conditions. These can be partly induced by the seals on the kiln, use of vents and bungs and heat levels and soak times. There are so many variations that it would be difficult to exercise control, and perhaps one would not want to.
Isn’t that a perfect description of life itself? “There are so many variations that it would be difficult to exercise control, and perhaps one would not want to.”