by Gene Koss
Over the last 20 years, my work has focused on evoking Midwestern farm life. Working with a mechanical engineer and a project coordinator, I have developed techniques to transform my memories of the mechanized Wisconsin farm of my youth into foundry-based glass sculpture.
My ideas come first, and then I am pushed to develop processes to realize these ideas. Every artist has to find the scale at which they are comfortable working, and my sculptures are large. Since I began working with glass, I have wanted to move it off its pedestal. I dreamed of making the glass sections of my work in one solid piece, but it was a technical nightmare. Instead, I developed a process to cast smaller, molded blocks, and began building the glass for my pieces with these cast blocks. I think they turned out better this way. I have also developed several machines that I use to manipulate the glass during the casting process. The texture and the color of the glass are dictated by the idea.
Like the huge harvesting machines that gently remove the grain from the stalk without crushing it, the machines I use in molding and manipulating the glass are very mechanical and heavy duty, yet they must be gentle with the material. The machines, which were developed to create the sculpture, often end up being an important part of the sculpture itself.
My casting process requires a well-coordinated team with split second timing. My crew and I demonstrated three pours at Susan Gott’s Pheonix Studio in Tampa for the 1999 G.A.S. Conference. The first pour was one of the cast block shapes used to build the 30 feet of glass in Coulee Song, a sculpture 7 feet tall by 40 feet long and weighing 8 tons. The other two pours were Gizmo Contraption and River-Dam-Run. In both of these pours, glass is cast into machines we developed, which manipulate the glass while still hot and liquid. The resulting glass sculptures are exhibited either with or without the machines.