Introducing the Enchanting Glass Worlds of Amber Cowan
Wednesday, November, 1st, 2023
Pictured Above: Bittersweet, River, and Milk, 2023, Amber Cowan. Photo Credit: Matthew Hollerbush
Newsroom Post: MILLVILLE, NEW JERSEY
Millville, NJ – Wheaton Arts and Cultural Center invites visitors to revel in the enchanting worlds of Philadelphia-based artist and educator Amber Cowan in the new Alchemy of Adornment exhibit on display in the Museum of American Glass. Using the centuries-old techniques of glassblowing and flameworking, Cowan transforms American-pressed glass into exuberantly adorned diorama-like wall installations and free-standing sculptures. Her lush assemblages lure viewers into fanciful narratives rich with symbolism and themes of transformation, femininity, and nostalgia.
The decline of the American glass industry is at the very heart of Cowan’s work. By the end of the twentieth century, inexpensive pressed milky white and colored glass candy dishes, vases, and novelties—once proudly displayed in American homes—had fallen from favor. Fashion changed, and sentimental memories faded as generations passed. Amber Cowan is now passionately placing this glass back in the spotlight.
Cowan masterfully remelts and sculpts cullet (factory scrap glass) to create new elements and blends them with found, sought, and donated antique glass. Some of the glass is sourced from thrift shops, online sales, friends, and even strangers who want their objects to have a second life. Most of the forms and distinctive cullet colors will never be made again, as they are products of defunct factories that once thrived in the “midwestern” glassmaking region of western Pennsylvania, Ohio, and West Virginia.
Alchemy of Adornment expands the interpretation of Cowan’s work by juxtaposing her creations with the artist’s choice of objects from the Museum collection. “We hope visitors will share Cowan’s passion for the history of glass when they view firsthand the parallels between her work and Mt. Washington Glass Works ‘Burmese’ vases from the 1880s, ornate Victorian flower baskets, and 1930s female figures,” states Mary Mills, Director of Exhibitions and Collections at WheatonArts, and curator of the exhibit. Other featured Museum objects illustrate the rich colors—such as “Bittersweet” orange, “Jadeite,” and “Rosalene”—that once signified household taste and now form Cowan’s palette.
Pictured Above: Ecco to the Bridesmaid ‘I Know Not What Has Happened to Your Pod’, 2022, Amber Cowan Photo Credit: Matthew Hollerbush.
Alchemy of Adornment is on display through December 31, 2023, in the renowned Museum of American Glass at WheatonArts, housing one of the most comprehensive collections of glass produced in America and the world’s largest hand-blown glass bottle. Additionally, WheatonArts’ Down Jersey Folklife Center is currently showcasing The Good, the Evil, and the Funny: Ritual and Mask Dance of Latin America exhibit, exploring a comparative perspective of ritual and celebratory use of masks, their costumes, and dances, as well as an interpretation of symbolism and aesthetics associated with the cultural heritage of the Latin American communities within the region.
While visiting WheatonArts, guests can interact with resident artists in the Glass, Pottery, and Flamework Studios as they skillfully demonstrate the transformation of clay and molten glass into beautiful objects. Visitors can also learn how to shape hot glass, cut and arrange cold glass, or sculpt wet clay by signing up for a Make-Your-Own Experience! The Museum Stores sell works created onsite by the artists, as well as one-of-a-kind sculptures, unexpected treasures, fair trade items, and more. WheatonArts’ 45-acre campus also hosts a mile-looping Nature Trail and popular events, classes, and programs throughout the year.
WheatonArts strives to ensure the accessibility of its exhibitions, events, and programs to all persons with disabilities. Provide two weeks’ notice for additional needs. Patrons with hearing and speech disabilities may contact WheatonArts through the New Jersey Relay Service (TRS) at 800-852-7899 or by dialing 711. For more information about WheatonArts, call 1-800-998-4552 or 856-825-6800, or visit online at wheatonarts.org.
Funding has been made possible in part by the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, a Partner Agency of the National Endowment for the Arts, and the New Jersey Cultural Trust. WheatonArts also receives general operating support from the New Jersey Historical Commission, Division of Cultural Affairs in the New Jersey Department of State, and is supported in part by the New Jersey Department of State, Division of Travel and Tourism.
About WheatonArts: With a history spanning over five decades, WheatonArts has earned regional, national, and international recognition for its unique collections and programs. The Museum of American Glass houses one of the most comprehensive collections of American glass in the country – from the first glass bottles made in America to celebrated works by Dale Chihuly, Paul Stankard, and other contemporary glass artists. Visitors experience the art of glassmaking, ceramics, and flameworking in the Artist Studios. From April through December, the Museum of American Glass and Down Jersey Folklife Center present special exhibitions. WheatonArts also offers traditional and multicultural programs, classes, workshops, performances, and weekend festivals. The award-winning Museum Stores offer traditional and contemporary art and craft in all mediums.