Dare I say it? The Corning Museum of Glass could be my favorite museum in the world.
I had no idea that glass could be so interesting.
At first glance, the Corning Museum of Glass is, well, a museum of glass. How can an entire museum exist simply display glass?
Let me tell you: there are a seemingly infinite amount of ways to create works out of glass. There are numerous ways to tell stories with glass art. And glass is a very important component of history.
Set aside at least a few hours of your day and visit the Corning Museum of Glass.
ABOUT THE MUSEUM
You’ll find the Corning Museum of Glass in Corning, New York (the Finger Lakes region). The museum was established in 1951 by the Corning Glass Works company (now known as Corning Incorporated). It was a gift to the country in celebration of their 100th birthday. Today, this non-profit museum hosts the best collection of glass in the world. As a versatile medium, glass tells compelling and important stories about art, culture, science and design from ancient civilizations to the present day.
In March 2015, the museum opened a brand new expansion: a 26,000-square-foot contemporary art gallery designed by architect Thomas Phifer and Partners. The gallery is spacious, open, white and bright. Diffused daylight mostly illuminates the modern glass artwork. It is the world’s largest space devoted to contemporary glass design and art.
There’s also a new theater for glassblowing demonstrations, complete with 500 seats. And there’s also a brand new app called GlassApp. It’s a comprehensive collection of the museum’s contemporary works in the palm of your hand. By using the app on your phone, you can easily look up detailed information on artists and their art as you stroll around the museum. You can even browse from home on your computer!
Here’s why I fell in love with the Corning Museum of Glass:
AN IMPRESSIVE COLLECTION
First and foremost, I adore the Corning Museum of Glass because I love glass art! I’m thoroughly impressed by the sheer creativity and vision behind it. Every piece of art tells a story or shares a window the artist’s world. Some of this art doesn’t even look like glass! In other cases, I’m amazed by the patience by the artist in creating pieces over several years.
Even though I visited the museum for a few hours, I still feel like I barely scraped the surface. Between limited exhibitions and the amount of glass art in the building (over 3,500 historical pieces alone), you could take multiple trips to the museum and discover new pieces of art each time.
Here are a few of my favorite contemporary glass art pieces in the museum.
Fog – Ann Gardner
There are more than 100 hanging, mosaic-covered pods in shades of gray and white to evoke the imagery of clouds and fog. As the pods spin and slowly drift, they alternate between being opaque and transparent, just like clouds and fog.
Forest Glass – Katherine Gray
From a distance, I saw three trees lining a wall of the museum. Up close, these trees are made from found objects – glassware. The wood from chopped down trees fueled glass furnaces, resulting in deforestation and destruction. Rescued and recycled, these glasses now serve a new purpose in this work of art, honoring the sacrificed forests.
Lynx After a Sketchbook Page by Albrecht Durer – Marta Klonowska
Klonowska creates three-dimensional glass art from her favorite artworks. This lynx was designed from an original sketch by German artist, Albrecht Durer. She made the lynx from thousands of pieces of cut glass.
Carroña – Javier Perez
This smashed glass chandelier evokes the imagery of blood spilling to the floor. Stuffed crows pounce on the “body”. This art serves as a metaphor for the declining glass industry in Murano, Italy. I think it’s the first work of art that I’ve seen shattered on a museum floor.
Endeavor – Lino Tagliapietra
In creating these hanging rainbow curves, the artist was inspired by floating gondolas in Venice gathering for the Festa della Sensa (Feast of the Assumption of the Virgin). You’ll see in the above photo that I visited the museum with my sister, Robyn. We both thoroughly enjoyed our time here.
Continuous Mile – Liza Lou
Yes, this glass work is made from millions of glass seed beads. Liza Lou spent over a year stringing these beads, along with a team of Zulu women in South Africa. There are 4.5 million beads in total. Lou was inspired to use a slow technique to unite a community of people, with the goal of making something together.
Constellation – Kiki Smith
This artwork takes up an entire room, and it’s designed to look like the night sky. The constellations are literally represented by glass animals, posed in the way they are depicted in the stars. You’ll also see glass stars and cast bronze animal scat across leaves of Nepalese paper.
To see more contemporary art from the Corning Museum of Glass, please visit my photo album.
The roots of glass blowing and the history of glass is fascinating. From primitive glass works to intricate designs, the Corning Museum of Glass has 3,500 historical artifacts on display from around the world. I won’t go into too much detail here, but this display alone is worth a trip to the museum.
A temporary exhibition that you need to check out is called Fragile Legacy: The Marine Invertebrate Glass Models of Leopold and Rudolf Blaschka. It runs until January 8, 2017, so you have lots of time to plan your visit.
At the beginning of the 20th century, Leopold and Rudolf Blaschka started a business making extremely detailed glass models of underwater sea life. These models were shipped worldwide and used as teaching tools, as it wasn’t possible to remove and preserve marine invertebrates from the ocean. The delicate models were very true to life. We can appreciate the handiwork that went into carefully crafting each piece, not only as a study model, but as a work of art. The underlying message of the exhibition demonstrates that we need to boost conservation efforts to preserve the world’s oceans. Though we enjoy these glass models of underwater creatures, it’s important that we don’t destroy our oceans, killing the sea life that they represent. As beautiful as they are, we don’t want to be left with only fragile pieces of glass.
Perhaps instead of removing fish and marine mammals from the ocean, we should learn a lesson from these glass makers. Let’s find ways to watch underwater sea creatures through technology (film documentaries, or even augmented reality) without removing them from their natural homes.
GLASS BLOWING DEMONSTRATIONS
There are several narrated glassblowing demonstrations, included in the cost of admission at the Corning Museum of Glass. Watch as master glass makers skillfully shape molten glass into vases, bowls, and sculptures. It’s amazing to watch glass blowing in action. The Corning Museum of Glass has even introduced these glass blowing productions on the road, even at sea on select Celebrity cruise ships!
Between you and me, I enjoyed these demonstrations even more than the one I saw in Murano, Italy. The production shows are lengthier and more detailed. Plus, with stadium seating and screens with multiple camera angles, you’ll be able to watch the show from several perspectives before your eyes.
I GOT TO MAKE MY OWN GLASS!
My favorite part of visiting the Corning Museum of Glass was actually making my own glass work of art. Yes, they let me near molten globs of glass and industrial-sized furnaces. Don’t worry – there are experts to assist you and anyone can make their own glass work.
There is an extra charge to make something from glass, and I recommend booking this activity in advance as it’s very popular. Robyn and I made glass flowers using glass forming techniques. It was really fun to work with a glass maker to create a work of art. We chose our own colors and used tools to bend and shape the hot, molten glass. As the glass flowers needed to cool, the Corning Museum of Glass shipped them to our homes and we received them within the week. A glass flower costs $30 to make and can be shipped for an additional fee throughout the USA and Canada. They can also be picked up from the museum the following day.
AN ENTIRE DAY OF FUN
You could spend the whole day here. The museum also gives you the option to break it up if you don’t want to take everything in at once. Every ticket to the Corning Museum of Glass is valid for two days, so feel free to return the next day to discover new sections of the museum that you didn’t have time to cover the previous day.
There’s a huge shop in the museum, too. It’s almost like another museum in itself. You can buy smaller works of art by prominent glass artists and local artists – vases, Christmas ornaments, paper weights, and more.
I was continually inspired throughout my visit to the Corning Museum of Glass. Through innovative and thoughtful modern works to the classics, there’s something for everyone. The concepts behind the exhibits are thought-provoking and deliver powerful messages. Glass blowing allows you to witness the masters at work, and there are even hands-on activities in making glass yourself.
I fell in love with the Corning Museum of Glass – I know I’ll be returning again in the future.
Parking in the main lot is free, and it is a short walk from the museum. There’s also a free shuttle bus that takes passengers from the parking lot to the museum. You can also take the shuttle bus to the Rockwell Museum and Corning’s Historic Gaffer District. This gives you many options to visit another museum, go shopping, or enjoy a meal in downtown Corning.
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Thank you so much to the Corning Museum of Glass for hosting our visit to your beautiful museum.
Have you ever visited the Corning Museum of Glass? What’s your favorite museum in the world?