Mint Museum of Craft + Design / Mint Museum of Art

Charlotte, NC



William Morris: Myth, Object and the Animal

November 10 - March 31, 2002

(above: William Morris, photo by Amy Herd)


As a craftsman, William Morris lives up to the legacy of elevated technical skill implied in sharing a name with the revered co-founder of the arts and craft movement. As a glass artist, Morris shatters a common perception that glass art lacks content. (left: Horse Panel, 1998)

Knowledgeable collectors and curators around the world are drawn to Morris' work for his technical mastery of a notoriously difficult medium, innovative use of color, design and surface texture, and his use of ancient motifs and myths to probe our modern psyches. The connoisseur's enthusiasm can now be shared with a larger public through the exhibition William Morris: Myth, Object and the Animal at Charlotte, NC's Mint Museum of Craft + Design, November 10 through March 31, 2002.

Morris credits a need to be close to nature as the influencing force in his artistic development that began with producing vessel-based objects as Dale Chihuly's gaffer (master glassblower) in the early 1980s. Tall and muscular, Morris' strength and skill allowed Chihuly to push blown glass to sculptural and architectural dimensions.

William Morris' own work bears none of Chihuly's flash and color. His series of work at the Pilchuck Glass School the past 20 years are archaeological inspirations borrowed from various cultures throughout time, each addressing a relationship between humans and their environment. That relationship is referenced in works with imagery drawn from the ancient cave paintings of Lascaux, France, the bones and primitive tools of an ancient Ice Age, Egyptian funerary jars or the ceramic mastodons, bulls and other creatures unearthed from the 3,000 year-old Amlash graves of Iran. (right: Canopic Jar, 1995)

The exhibition will feature major installations Artifact Panel, Cache and Horse Panel, and individual blown glass works from other series, including Stonehedge, Artifact Vessels, Suspended Artifacts and Rhyton Vessels. His newest series, Man Adorned, will debut at the Mint. Museum of Craft + Design and become part of the remaining national exhibition tour.

A glass virtuoso, Morris creates blown glass sculptures and installations that simulate the artificial remains of animal skulls, prehistoric vessels and ancient bones. Combined with mythological symbols, hundreds are arranged in grid form presentations, sometimes resembling dioramas the scale of a room-sized wall, as in Artifact Panel. Horse Panel displays painted pottery horses that are worn, cracked and eroded as if recently unearthed from their ancient resting place -- only the pieces are made of glass. The "ancient" surface texture is achieved by sprinkling powdered glass and minerals onto the blown surface, etching and acid washing.

(above left: Man Adorned, 2001; above right: Rana Tharu Woman)

Animals abound in much of Morris' blown glass, in particular, his Rhyton Series. Ravens and crows perch on vessels of various shapes, caught in the act of quarreling or leaping into flight. A flock may be perched on the backside of a bull, taunting its host. Mounted horned skull trophies serve as recollections of the ritual of the hunt and the urge to conquer nature. While his work attempts to connect viewers with the natural and spiritual forces of the world, Morris downplays the deep analyses and mythic interpretation of his work that visitors are inspired to write in gallery comment books.

In a feature in Art & Antiques Magazine ("Glass Paradox" by Rebecca Robinson, December 1999) Morris quotes Thomas More to explain the effect of his work.

The soul requires more than ideas and ruminations. It needs objects to ally itself with.

"All I do is create objects from ordinary life," explained Morris. "The real myth is that nature subjects itself upon us every day, whether we know it or not."

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This page was originally published in Resource Library Magazine. Please see Resource Library's Overview section for more information. rev. 6/3/11

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