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Dayton Celebrates Glass: Chihuly, Littleton, Labino and Beyond at the Dayton Art Institute

By Janell Ward

Photo: Stephen Rolfe Power, “Lurid Tickle Sniffer”

In 1919, The Dayton Art Institute opened its doors. Today, the museum still serves the community through exhibitions and collections and by featuring internationally renowned artifacts. The institute hosts over 5,000 years’ worth of art and continues to usher surprising and modern artistic forms, which can be seen in the upcoming summer exhibition, Dayton Celebrates Glass: Chihuly, Littleton, Labino and Beyond. 

Dayton serves as an ideal host for the glass exhibit, as the modern American Studio Glass Movement originated in the neighboring city of Toledo, Ohio. The success and inspirational works of prior glass exhibitions at The Dayton Art Institute captivated those who saw it and increased the curiosity in Dayton locals for more glass showings. Aimee Marcereau DeGalan, who began as the museum’s curator in fall 2012, observed the overwhelming enthusiasm surrounding glass art. 

“People get glass art,” she said. “It is beautiful, often with exquisite color, and it has so many applications on a functional, scientific and aesthetic level. It goes back centuries in terms of its production.”

 With encouragement and assistance from Tom Hawk, a leading authority of contemporary glass, Marcereau DeGalan endeavored a year-long process of learning about the field and assembling the group of objects now on display. 

All the featured objects emerge from Dayton area collections, regional institutions and some artists who have direct ties to the area. The exhibit includes five magnificent galleries arranged according to artistic style and technique. Galleries One through Four feature hot processed glass.

In Gallery One: Pioneers and Glass (hot blown). In Gallery Two: Second Generation Hot.Gallery Three features Sculpted, Fused and Cast, and Gallery Four features Lampwork or Flamework. The fifth  gallery encompasses the cold-cut process – a process Marcereau DeGalan noted is specifically complex: “There are only a handful of glass artists working in the cold process,” she said. “The work is deliberate, and does not offer much room for error.” 

Among the five galleries, you will see rare pieces from early glass-making pioneers, including Dominique Labino, Harvey Littleton and Dale Chihuly. A special feature will be Chihuly’s early work from 1974, when he first discovered the technique of laying colored glass rods onto a cylinder vessel to create a design. An additional Chihuly work that will be displayed includes “Mardi Gras Persian” which is a threaded Venetian glass he learned to make while in Murano, Italy. You can also view his original and abstract drip drawings used to communicate design ideas to his team. 

While highlighting the founding work of the glass movement’s forerunners, Dayton Celebrates Glass will also present contemporary artists working in the field. A few contemporary artists include Karen LaMonte, Peter Houk and Kari Russell-Pool. These artists use strong symbolism in their work and are uniquely inspired through differing means. LaMonte uses clothing to represent the exploration of identity, while Houk focuses on the way landscapes signify desolation and splendor. Lemons and teapots are the chosen symbols of Russell-Pool, which reveal the bitterness and sweetness of life, as well as the comforts she has experienced.  

Cassandria Blackmore, another featured contemporary artist, is known as the rock star of the group because of her unconventional approach to glass. Blackmore uses the ancient technique of painting on the back of glass, known as verre églomisé, but then she shatters her work and spends weeks reassembling the fragments. She discovered how the reflection and refraction of light through the pattern was dazzling and distinctive. Blackmore’s inspiration reportedly derived from a glass portrait she shattered accidentally. 

Supplementary to the displayed work of local artists, the exhibit is infused with internationally renowned designers such as the Swedish artist Bertil Vallian, who produces layers of symbolism through sand casting. You can also view the praised botanical realism of Paul Stankard, the expressive compositions of the Polish artist Janusz Walentynowicz and the complex glass rods by the Japanese artist Harue Shimomoto. 

Shimomoto’s display represents one of the exhibit’s major themes: the connectivity between master and student. Across from Shimomoto’s art, you can see the creativity of her teacher Toots Zynsky, which highlights the similarities and unique differences between master and student. Another moving presentation is a memorial gallery for the work of Tom Chapman. Chapman was a leader in the Dayton community of glass blowers. His originality and guidance are dearly cherished among his fellow artists.

The grand finale of the show can be seen in gallery five, where you can view the rare 1,100-pound “Sunflower IV,” designed by Christopher Ries. 

“The complexity of the interior optical illusions Ries creates defies the exterior forms of simplistic curves and angles,” Marcereau DeGalan said.
“Sunflower IV” is a magnificent, optic lead crystal glass sculpture is 43 inches in diameter. Ries works with the highest purity level of lead crystal glass, and he uses real 24 karat gold on the sunflower’s petals. The reflecting light adds an unparalleled brilliance that should not be missed.          


Dayton Celebrates Glass: Chihuly, Littleton, Labino and Beyond is on view through Sept. 28 at the Dayton Art Institute, 456 Belmonte Park N. If you would like to book a docent-led tour please contact Donna Young at 937.512.0152 or For tickets or more information, please call 937.223.5277 or visit

Reach DCP freelance writer Janell Ward at

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