By Drew Sterwald
FGCU Staff Writer
Harvey Littleton found splendor in the glass.
Littleton (1922-2013) rose to prominence in the early 1960s as a pioneer of the American studio glass movement -- introducing the medium as a fine art apart from factory production and developing a course of study for future artisans to transform molten glass into fragile polymorphic sculptures. Littleton was also a printmaker who developed a process of printing from glass plates -- called vitreography -- which he shared with other artists who came to the Littleton Studios in North Carolina.
“White White” by Harvey Littleton
“Harvey Littleton: No Secrets” opens with a reception from 5 to 8 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 21.
That printmaking is the focus of “Harvey Littleton: No Secrets,” the first exhibition of the 2014-15 school year at The Main Gallery of Florida Gulf Coast University (FGCU). On display Aug. 21 to Sept. 25, the 40 works by Littleton and other artists from his studios highlight a generous gift to FGCU’s permanent collection by the artist’s daughter, Carol Littleton Shay. She has pledged more than 70 works from the Littleton Studios and will attend this exhibition’s opening reception at 5 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 21.
“Littleton artworks are in museum collections all over the world,” says Gallery Director John Loscuito. “This is a significant gift and establishes the FGCU Art Galleries as collecting artworks by world-renowned artists.”
Littleton’s work can be found in the collections of The Metropolitan Museum of Art and Museum of Modern Art in New York, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian Institution and the Victoria & Albert Museum in England, among others.
The gift to FGCU has personal as well as academic significance for Associate Professor Andy Owen, whose work is included in the current exhibition. Just out of graduate school, Owen was hired by Littleton as a master printmaker in the early 1990s and they remained friends until Littleton died last December. Owen hopes to have the resources someday to add vitreography to the other printmaking techniques he teaches at FGCU, but in the meantime students will benefit from being able to study the Littleton collection.
“It’s a really, really valuable teaching tool to have the opportunity to share this work with students via an exhibit but also to have access to the works on a regular basis,” Owen says. “These artists deal with a broad range of content. It’s a rich resource for students.”
Though he started in ceramics, Littleton may have been destined to shatter conventional limitations of glass. He was born in Corning, N.Y., and his father was director of research at Corning Glass Works and a developer of Pyrex glass kitchen and lab products.
Glass plates offer some advantages over traditional metal plates, according to Owen. Roughly 3/8ths of an inch thick, they hold up well under printing compression and last longer, allowing the artist to produce a higher quantity of prints. Images are sandblasted into the glass, and the texturized surface holds ink effectively until it’s transferred to paper.
“For the viewer, there’s a purity of color that comes off glass,” Owen says. “The ink doesn’t oxidize like with metal plates. It’s not going to replace traditional printmaking methods, but it’s another tool.”
Owen and Loscuito will discuss the technique and the exhibit in a gallery talk at the opening reception.
The Main Gallery is in the Arts Complex on FGCU’s main campus at 10501 FGCU Blvd. S. Regular viewing hours are: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Wednesday and Friday; 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday. For more information, go to artgallery.fgcu.edu or call (239) 590-7199.