Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Putting the Class in Glass

Recently a friend from Vancouver, who had been living in Calgary, introduced me to Axis Contemporary Art, via its Web site (Unfortunately, I have yet to visit Calgary, though it’s on my list of places to see before I die.) The gallery represents professional Canadian and international artists working in a variety of media including painting, sculpture, printmaking, drawing and photography. If I weren’t here in NYC, I’d definitely, pardon the grossly obvious pun (though I can’t resist), make a “bee” line to Axis—especially to its latest show Bee Kingdom Collective: New Works in Hot Glass that will open tomorrow and run through November 3. I’m sure that it will prove to be a (hold on…another bad pun!) “window” to contemporary glass art and the future of the medium.

Bee Kingdom Collective, a group of three artists-- Ryan Marsh Fairweather, Phillip Bandura and Tim Belliveau—who live, breath and work side by side, fuel their works’ themes through collaboration and the fusion of styles resulting from the individual solo work that they also do.

Upon completing their studies in the glass program at Alberta College of Art and Design, the three artists embarked on an artistic lifestyle\career by building a hot-glass studio in their backyard garage in at the home they share together in northwest Calgary. It is this “kingdom” of sorts that has helped give the trio its collective name. They have also attributed their name to the industrious pace at which they work as well as the honey like flow that characterizes hot glass.

Bee Kingdom Collectives’ show at Axis features distinct creations, largely inspired by natural phenomena, ranging from figure 8s to polka dots, all incorporating the artists’ use of vivid color and eye for form. Each brings his own strengths to the overall design.

With a stylistically recognizable body of work, Bee Kingdom Collective's work runs the gamut from the select designs they call the “studio series,” to custom sculpture/installation and fine art. Their ingenuity has caused the international glass art world to sit up and take notice of their work, while they, as steadily as the flow of hot glass, continue to carve out a very special niche for themselves. They contend that their work is changing into a form that is “unique, something that isn't born from the traditional Venetian style of blowing..." but rather something hugely influenced by the studio glass movement.

All influences aside, Bee Kingdom Collective's own impact on the community is definitely showing, considering that they were recently selected as the winning designers, from a constituency of artists who submitted from around the world, in the annual Pilchuck School’s centerpiece competition. Pilchuck was co-founded in 1971 by internationally renowned glass artist Dale Chihuly and patrons Anne Gould Hauberg and John H. Hauberg. Their centerpiece will be produced and be displayed at Pilchuck’s annual benefit auction held in Seattle at the end of October. For more information on attending this benefit, visit

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