Toots Zynsky

2015 Visionary Award Recipient

Toots Zynsky was born and raised in Massachusetts and is a graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design. Her quest for understanding and testing the limits of glass-making has continued for more than 40 years and has fanned several continents. Her signature heat-formed filet de verre (glass thread) vessels are widely cherished and considered to be unique in the world of glass art. Her pieces inhabit a region all their own, interweaving the traditions of painting, sculpture, and the decorative arts. She spent 16 years abroad living in Europe and West Africa. Her extraordinary glass art is collected by major museums, including the deYoung Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco; Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY; Musee des Arts Decoratifs du Louvre, Paris, France; Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY; Smithsonian American Art Museum’s Renwick Gallery; Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, Netherlands; Victoria and Albert Museum, London, England, among many in an extensive list throughout the world. Her work was recently featured in an exhibition at the Palazzo Loredan of the Instituto Veneto di Sciencze, Lettere ed Arti, in Venice, Italy.

Rago is privileged to participate in this exceptional event, celebrating these visionary artists and supporting one of our nation’s most important cultural institutions.

Suzanne Perrault

The Smithsonian Visionary Benefit Auction

Works Sold to Benefit The Smithsonian Institution

Rago is pleased to present The Smithsonian Visionary Benefit Auction within our Modern Design sale. This special section features items created by past and present Smithsonian Visionary Artists, all sold to benefit the Smithsonian Institution.

The Visionary Award, established in 2014, is presented annually to artists who are deemed by curators in the field to have risen to the pinnacle in the world of sculptural arts and design, who have works in major museums, and who have demonstrated distinction, creativity, artistry, and of course, vision in his or her respective medium.

Patti Warashina, the 2020 recipient of the Visionary Award, joins the small but prestigious list of past recipients: Joyce J. Scott, Faith Ringgold, Dale Chihuly, Toots Zynsky, Wendell Castle and Albert Paley. 

All lots in the Visionary Benefit Auction are of the primary market, unless otherwise indicated. They are being sold with all proceeds going to the Smithsonian Institution and will be shipped directly from the artist or the gallery. Rago is waiving the buyer's premium on each of these works. 

The constant interaction of color and light transmitted through and around the many undulating interior and exterior surfaces gives each piece its ever changing life.

Toots Zynsky

Toots Zynsky

Born in Massachusetts in 1951, Toots Zynsky is a master of Studio Glass, celebrated for her characteristic heat-formed glass thread vessels and her fearless exploration of form and color.

Utilizing a process of her own design, known as “filet de verre,” Zynsky layers and arranges super fine glass threads on fiberglass board in a method the artist has likened to drawing or painting. These thin threads are then thermally fused in the kiln as the artist shapes and curves the glass into the fluid waves that characterize her vessels.

Known as Toots since childhood, Zynsky received her Bachelor of Fine Arts from Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) in 1973, working under the tutelage of famed glass sculptor Dale Chihuly. She and fellow classmates James Carpenter, Bruce Chao, Dan Dailey, and Therman Statom explored the potential of glass, pushing the boundaries of the medium.

While still at RISD, Zynksy helped Dale Chihuly found and develop the Pilchuck Glass School in Stanwood, Washington. After graduating in 1973, she went to work at Pilchuck. This is where she conceived her “spun glass” and pulled-thread technique she named filet-de-verre, inspired by images of barbed wire, which she has describes as “a powerful symbol of the failure of humanity…material to keep each other apart.”

In the 1980s, Zynsky went to Brooklyn as Assistant Director at the New York Experiment Glass Workshop (known today as Urban Glass). She traveled to Europe on a small grant from the National Endowment for the Arts and, with Mathijs Teunissen Van Manen, a Dutch artist and inventor, invented a glass thread-pulling machine that bettered her filet-de-verre process.

Zynsky suffered several personal losses over the course of only a few years. She struggled in the studio until, fatigued by prismatic colors, she focused on red, which she calls “the color of life”. These pieces, which incorporate blacks and purples that deepen and shadow, are memento mori. The act of placing glass threads brings each piece to life and hold the memory of the people she’s loved and lost. Not surprisingly, her work in this phase has been a solitary, contemplative pursuit, a thing apart from the group dynamic that originally lured her to the craft.

Toots Zynsky’s work is highly sought after by collectors and commands impressive prices on the secondary market. Her work is in the collections of notable institutions including The Corning Museum of Glass, Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Museum of Modern Art, Smithsonian Institution, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston and Houston, Victoria and Albert Museum of London and many more.

Auction Results Toots Zynsky