Michael Glancy 1950–2020

Born in Detroit in 1950, Michael Glancy earned a BFA from the University of Denver in 1973 and a BFA in sculpture from the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) in 1977. Enticed by the “smoke and fire” of glassblowing, Glancy continued his education with glass artist Dale Chihuly, earning an MFA in glass from RISD in 1980.

In 1982, while teaching at Chihuly’s Pilchuck Glass School, he discovered sandblasting and cold-working techniques. He adopted the thick, heavy glass construction of the Italian sommerso and Scandinavian graal, better suited for deep reliefs (in contrast to the Venetian method of blowing paper-thin vessels).

Glancy rarely created stand-alone objects, preferring instead to create dynamic pairings of sculpted objects and the complementary bases on which they were placed. The object and its display platform were thus conceived as forming an aesthetic whole. His signature technique was an electroforming process that creates a thin layer of metal on the glass. The artist (or his assistant) stencil-painted his creations with electrically conductive paint, attached electrodes to the object, and placed the object in a chemical bath of metallic compounds. Introducing an electrical current to the chemical bath transferred the metal plating to the painted surface of the glass, producing a clean and defined separation between the two mediums and resulting in the intricately layered texture of each piece.

Glancy adopted the Murano model of collaboration between master glass artists and glassblowers first brought to the U.S. by Dale Chihuly. In his own studio, he worked predominantly with two assistants, Myles Baer and Adrianne Evans. Baer, who had been with Glancy since the age of sixteen, specialized in cold-working glass techniques such as cutting, grinding, engraving and sandblasting. Evans developed the molds used to cast glass and metal objects. As master of the studio, Glancy guided rather than controlled his assistants, giving them room to explore their own artistry. He collaborated with other glass artists as well. His association with the Pilchuck Glass School introduced him to influential European glass masters and led to a long and fruitful partnership with Swedish glass artist Jan-Erik Ritzman.

Glancy was an adjunct faculty member at RISD in the jewelry and metalsmithing department from 1982 until his death, and was an invited faculty member at Pilchuck. His work has been exhibited and collected by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Corning Museum of Glass, Carnegie Museum of Art, Detroit Institute of Art, Victoria and Albert Museum, and many other art and design institutions.

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