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Preston Singletary
The Heard Museum, 
Phoenix, Arizona
Recommendation by Deborah Ross

Continuing through February 6, 2011

Driven by a desire to wed traditional Native American storytelling and symbolism with the “wow factor” of contemporary glass blowing, Preston Singletary succeeds on both counts in this mid-career retrospective. Of the 54 works, most draw their inspiration from Singletary’s Tlingit (Alaskan native) heritage and thus depict anthropomorphic animals on glass representations of utilitarian and ceremonial objects such as crest hats, amulets, baskets, cedar boxes and masks.

The aspects that elevate the pieces to the “wow” level are: the intense yet translucent colors; the use of lighting to let the geometric designs cast shadows on the display surface; the painstakingly precise cuts to the glass through sand carving and other devices; and the sheer size of several pieces.

Taking center stage is “Clan House” (2008), a 16-foot-by-10-foot cast-glass triptych evoking a longhouse, with two intricately carved posts flanking a giant screen, all aglow in gold and black. Another stellar achievement is “Raven Steals the Sun, Stars, and Moon” (2008), depicting the omnipotent Raven of Tlingit heritage, mounted high on the wall. Inside its beak: a glass fireball symbolizing light. The piece is deceptively simple, and, like “Clan House” and other pieces, it brings welcome diversity to the American Studio Glass movement.

The Heard Museum

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