‘Waterworks’ exhibit at Steiner Art Gallery a showcase of delicate glasswork

Nov 16, 2017

BATAVIA — Usually, when one adds a torch to water the result is steam. But in the hands of sculptor Jennifer Hecker, the end result is a beautiful and delicate work of art.

OK, so she doesn’t actually use water. That would be impossible. Hecker instead substitutes glass for water, a medium that is still new to her, despite decades of experience.

“That’s one of the things I like about working with glass; it’s transparency and fluidity remind me of water, said Hecker, a professor at Brockport State College. “So I’ve been sort of constructing with water. I’m not really doing a naturalistic thing of trying to form the glass into water; it’s much more of constructivist approach.”

An exhibit of Hecker’s art, “Waterworks,” opens today in the Rosalie “Roz” Steiner Art Gallery at Genesee Community College and will run through Dec. 15. It includes 20 pieces, all with a water theme, and prominently features glasswork.

For Hecker, who has taught at Brockport for 29 years after beginning her career in Chicago, the introduction to glass came four years ago when she took a class through the college at the Rochester Arc & Flame Center. It was a brand new material, but one that responded similarly to the more familiar steel. Through the use of heat, she can bend, twist and stretch the glass into any shape she wants. Hecker’s pieces in the exhibit include a long rods running through a floor drain and a wide-brimmed hat with glass icicles hanging off the end.

“This process is flame-working, so it’s different that glass-blowing or casting,” Hecker said as she hung glass pins from the underside of an umbrella. “It’s all done with a torch and heat. It’s similar to metal, but I keep getting into trouble handling glass like steel. Glass is not steel; they have different properties. But you do work it with heat. They both bend and stretch and form with the torch.

“It takes a long time. Glass is a very humbling material, and I feel like I’m still learning.”

The opportunity to display a sculpture exhibit was one not to be missed for Gallery Coordinator Mary Jo Whitman, a SUNY Brockport grad and Hecker’s former student.

“One of our goals is to expose our audience to a variety of styles, media, and concepts, she said. “The majority of artists that submit proposals to exhibit in the gallery are of paintings and photographs, so it is very exciting when we receive a proposal for a sculptural exhibition. I love sculpture. I am a sculptor myself, so it is always thrilling to exhibit sculptural work.”

An opening reception for the exhibit will be held at 1 and 5 p.m. Nov. 30 in the gallery, 1 College Road. Hecker will also discuss her process and artwork during a lecture at 12:30 that day.

“I hope they think about water,” Hecker said when asked what she wants people to take away from her exhibit. “But I’m also using water as a metaphor. It’s the idea of holding onto water as a solid that isn’t ice. Water flows away and runs through your fingers; it will erode away its container; it will grow mold, evaporate. It’s holding onto something transient. I think of water as a metaphor for life itself; you try to hold onto it and preserve it, but you can’t quite do it.”

By Matt Krueger, Batavia Daily News