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A new exhibit of cut-glass wall sculptures induces a prehistorical awareness.

Into the Looking Glass

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tudents of the classics or the writings of Swiss psychologist Carl G. Jung will be familiar with the symbolic dispositions of Jude Schlotzhauer's new collection of wall sculptures, featured by Astra Gallery this month.

Schlotzhauer has for many years looked to and interpreted Jung and other more aged resources for information on the archetypal vestiges in modern human consciousness.

Jude Schlotzhauer works with cast glass. Her material's properties and the processes by which she manipulates it, not to mention the fiery, blistering environment where each object's transformation occurs, no doubt further induce an archetypal awareness in the the artist. She incorporates the prehistoric powers of the medium into the message of her art.

Glass is an ancient and magical substance. Its invention dates to a time somewhere between the discovery of fire and the notion to record history. Its earliest appearance as melted-down sand-cast silica was as a thick, irregular but translucent brick built into a structure to infuse the interior with dull, mystically altered sunlight. The Egyptians later advanced and refined the production techniques, enriching the glass with bits of precious metal and jewels, a process continued by Schlotzhauer. The Byzantine period pushed it further by developing "stained" glass, impressing biblical teachings upon the populace.

Schlotzhauer thematically short of the Byzantines uses imagery primarily concerning itself with the motifs and devices of classical mythology: the vessel, the column, the caryatid, the portal and the dramatic mask.

Schlotzhauer's wall sconces are miniature glass grottoes, each with a relic or possession. They remind one of many things — as an archetypal object should — from any number of cultures and practices. From the heritage of the Greek stele with its bas-relief scene framed in an architectural enclosure to a cathedral nave lined with stations-of-the-cross, serial repositories promote a spiritual association. The artist's iconography may be secular, but it instigates the universal mechanism of the icon — a repeated admission of artifice, sacrifice, journey, remembrance and the ideal of perfect shelter.

Schlotzhauer constructs some of these small icons to the past with a mellow palette of pale greens, turquoises, lilacs and frosty purply-blacks, occasionally applying or infusing a contrasting metallic element of gold leaf, copper or silver. Others are shinier and more resolute, more dressed up. It is particularly the ones with a deep aqueous complexity that practice metaphorical restraint and are designed with simplicity that succeed most aesthetically for me.

I draw greater sustenance from the quiet, more numinous works that are made completely with Schlotzhauer's own hand over ones that have been externally embellished with a ready-made object, a milagro or a charm. "Vessel Doorway" and "Ancient Vessel" stand out in my memory among the present group for those reasons. However, others may possibly be drawn to the glittering dash and immediate association of the works with extrinsic metallic additives, they ultimately seem too easy. Anyone can attach a milagro to anything. Very few can work glass like this artist.

Schlotzhauer keeps her architectural scale small and intimate. This has the effect of drawing her viewers into the object's psychological and spiritual environment, inviting them through the doorways that are often a background aspect of her composition. Even when decidedly fused shut these smoky glass portals can seem probable and compelling as a destination. Maybe they are little entrances to whatever it is that one wishes to believe lies beyond, the well-imagined wish perhaps being all that is needed to provoke their steadfast suggestion of a hinge.

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