The fluid grace of a sculpture by Martin Blank reinvents a reflecting pool at the Museum of Glass in Tacoma, Washington
Meghan Edwards -- Interior Design, 8/1/2009 12:00:00 AM
Meditations on the transience of life take many artistic forms. But for sculptor Martin Blank, like novelist Marcel Proust, contemplation began with a cup of tea. "I was watching the steam rise and dissipate into the air, and it struck me that we're ephemeral beings," Blank recalls. "How do you make objects that reflect that?" His work as a gaffer at Dale Chihuly's studio had been a lot more colorful than ephemeral, and Blank didn't begin grappling with that question in earnest until a 2002 residency at the Museum of Glass in Tacoma, Washington. There, he spent a week translating the fluidity of water into a more permanent form by hand-sculpting glass heated to 2,200 degrees Fahrenheit in the museum's glory-hole furnace.
Years later, when the museum commissioned him to create a permanent installation for the reflecting pool on the main plaza out front, he conceived Fluent Steps over the course of three months of work at the on-site hot shop, a nearby warehouse, and later the hot shop at Martin Blank Studios. He divided his composition into four "regions." Forms that rise to 15 feet tall at one end are called Cascades. The shorter peaks of Echo flow across the pool's surface. Crystal Skin, cast from the trunk of a 30-foot-tall evergreen tree, is installed in horizontal segments. And the hundreds of short glass bits are Wisps.
The first step was to sculpt the pieces, all 745 of them. Then he fused each to a handblown connector and glued that to a stainless-steel plate. The plate, in turn, was welded to a steel stem ready to be screwed into an array of vertical steel poles that he and a team of 41 artisans, architects, and engineers bolted to steel armatures on the bottom of the pool. In the event of damage to any of the components, the modular construction allows them to be easily replaced. Not to worry, though. Blank had the sculpture tested to withstand winds up to 80 miles per hour.
THROUGHOUT SME: LIGHTING CONSULTANT. PETER A. OPSAHL STRUCTURAL ENGINEERING: STRUCTURAL ENGINEER. MAREL FOOD SYSTEMS: METALWORK.