Robert DuGrenier: Handle With Care

June 22 - September 24, 2018

Glass artist Robert DuGrenier is best known for complex chandeliers and large architectural installations fashioned from exuberant, colorful organic forms. The work in this exhibit radically departs from his prior artistic trajectory. In these works he marries old farm implements with clear, colorless glass.

Coming to terms with the destruction by fire of a historic barn and the death of many of his animals, DuGrenier did what artists do—he made art. Handle With Care materially manifests a deeply personal, even therapeutic, exploration of grief. Each sculpture is a lot like a Vermont farmer—rugged, weathered, strong of spine and purpose, clear-eyed, and droll.

Although the tools’ sculptural handles have a rather stark geometry of form, an alchemy happens when the light passing through them is reflected and refracted. These elegant, elongated shapes gain volume and complexity, creating dynamic three-dimensional drawings in glass, light, and shadow.

— Mara Williams, Chief Curator

Handle With Care emerged from my series Out of the Ashes, sculptures in which I combined blown and/or cast glass with the remains of tools and farming implements that were left behind after a fire destroyed my historic barn in 2015. In the initial series, I created pieces that appeared to be frozen in ice by embedding or encasing shovel blades, rake tines, lanterns, wrenches, and teeth from a spring harrow in clear glass. I allowed the glass to speak, to move in the directions it wanted to, with some guidance from me. Creating that series was therapeutic for me—it allowed me to create beauty out of a tragic event.

In Handle With Care, I’m manipulating the hot glass in a more deliberate way—carefully and intentionally crafting glass handles for axe blades, hammer heads, shovel blades, and hoes. Creating illusionary environments and challenging perceptions has been a recurring theme throughout my career. Here, I’m interested in challenging viewers, piquing their interest and curiosity, leading them to question whether the tools are now usable, and to ask themselves, “What would happen if one swung a glass-handled axe?”

— Robert DuGrenier


Photo Gallery


July 12, Thursday, 7:30 p.m. – Artist Talk: Robert DuGrenier