Boats and ships carry a great deal of symbolism and historical importance. Ships have transported people into slavery, carried vast armies towards conquest, saved armies from annihilation, and brought refugees from tyranny towards new lands. They represent a journey, a crossing, an adventure and exploration. The boat and its journey can symbolize a transition of one phase of life to another and one’s quest to answer the questions, “Where am I going? What is behind me? What is in front of me?”
The symbolism of the boat is exceptionally important in the context of Spirituality. The ship was an ancient Christian symbol. The symbolism can be viewed as the Church tossed on the sea of disbelief, worldliness, and persecution but finally reaching safe harbor with its cargo of human souls. All of us know the story of Noah’s Ark.
Boats are often used symbolically to carry the souls of the dead to heaven. This symbolism is worldwide and can be found in Egyptian mythology, Greek and Roman mythology, in Hindu stories, and in Buddhism. Boats were also used by the Norse as the symbolic means of transport of souls upon death. For this reason, they often used actual funerary boats in which to place their deceased noblemen and wealthy. The boats were then cast out into the sea, symbolically mimicking the souls’ journey to heaven - the final resting place of the soul.
Bender Gallery is pleased to present “Crossings – A Boat Show” featuring the work of eight prominent contemporary artists in the field of glass and mixed media sculpture. Mark Abildgaard, Philip Baldwin & Monica Guggisberg, Steve Jensen, Stephen Pon, Toland Sand, Bertil Vallien and Steven Weinberg express their vision of life’s journeys in the embodiment of boats and vessels. Each of these national and international artists brings their own technique, inspiration and aesthetic to the exhibition.
MARK ABILDGAARD has been a glass artist for 31 years. He is inspired by cultural artifacts and symbolism and employs imagery of totems and boats to explore ideas about the cycle of life and death. Abildgaard earned his MFA from the University of Hawaii and resides in Sacramento, CA. PHILIP BALDWIN & MONICA GUGGISBERG are known for their modern aesthetic and have been creating extraordinary glass sculpture together for 38 years. Their work has been included in many private collections and public outdoor installations and has been honored by numerous solo museum exhibitions. This husband and wife team recently moved their studio from Paris to rural Wales. STEVE JENSEN comes from a long tradition of Norwegian fisherman and boat builders growing up on his father’s fishing boat. To him the image of the boat is meant to symbolize a voyage or journey. Perhaps it is the voyage to the other side, or the journey to the unknown. Jensen lives and works in Seattle, WA. STEPHEN PON is from France and is now based in Montreal, QC. With a fondness for equivocation, lyricism, the dream-world, and the movement of water that reminds us of the turbulence of life, Pon presents us with ship-bound characters bound for destiny. His work examines the questions that arise in the interface between nature and culture. Pon invites us to interpret his glass sculptures inciting a reflection on non-western civilizations. TOLAND SAND is an innovator in the use of dichroic glass and polished crystal. He constructs his architecturally inspired sculptures from the inside out using hundreds of pieces of glass and crystal meticulously cut into exact shapes and then glued together. The results are dramatic with reflection and refraction. BERTIL VALLIEN has been at the forefront of Swedish glass design since the early 1960s. He began designing for Kosta Boda and by the 1970s it became necessary to devote a whole glassworks to his artistic output because of his innovative sand-casting technique. Today, Vallien is one of Europe's best known artists in glass, famous for his sculpted boat forms, rich with narrative imagery, and for figurative faces or masks and heads that are both enigmatic and beautiful. The boat forms have long been part of Viking tradition representing the passage from life to death. STEVEN WEINBERG has a MFA from the Rhode Island School of Design, and a BFA from the New York State College of Ceramics at Alfred University. Weinberg is a two-time recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts grant and has been casting and cutting glass in his Rhode Island studio since 1979.
We hope you enjoy the grouping of interpretations that have been put forth.