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Clear and bright

Glass gets a colorful reboot at the I.D.E.A. Space



The I.D.E.A. Space's new exhibit, Chromatica, isn't an array of brightly polished spinner dubs on cars, or a collection of Google products. It's actually a celebration of color — the title a play on the Greek word for purity of color, chroma.

Briget Heidmous, curatorial assistant at I.D.E.A., wanted to illustrate how color can be explored through a particular medium, so she assembled a team of four glass sculptors from around the country to do the job. "I wanted to explore color relationships through a powerful contemporary medium with a rich history of color," Heidmous says. "For me, glass stood out."

Glass sculpting is an ancient tradition with practical value. Though glass can be created in naturally occurring events such as volcano eruptions or lightning storms, it wasn't until human hands began producing glass objects that an art form was born. Millennia later, artists are still pushing the boundaries of this often-temperamental medium.

To obtain the desired balance between strength and beauty, artists delicately manipulate the substance with tools that can weigh in excess of 30 pounds, all while working next to seething furnaces holding hundreds of pounds of molten glass. In Chromatica, Tom Kreager, George Dielman (whose work, "Scroll 2 (Red and White)" is shown below), Evan Seeling and Jeremy Hansen together take about 20 pieces from that environment.

Kreager has a special bond with all the other artists, as well as Heidmous: "They were all my students," he explains.

Kreager, 59, has been teaching glass sculpting at Hastings College in Nebraska for over 25 years. As an undergrad student at the University of Illinois, Kreager came upon some glass-blowing classes, "signed up and never looked back." Today, the possibilities of the form still excite him. "[Glass sculpting] is a process-oriented media: One never can't learn something new. Even to masters of the art, it's still challenging."

For this exhibit, Kreager has taken on a new challenge. "I always wanted to start doing large-scale pieces, 3 to 6 feet tall. So we worked on it for six months before we figured out how to get these forms. At the very end, we had just the right temp." By allowing molten glass to droop as it's cooled, he's created what look like massive raindrops.

While Kreager has become an inspiration to many of his students, whose works will stand beside his own in Chromatica, he says the dynamic goes both ways.

"To see someone working so hard and start from nothing to create something good," he says, "it still gives me a weird, happy sensation."

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