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Steady Flow of Cool

Kathleen Mulcahy most recent installations with drops pull one close in to create a visceral attachment with the viewer. Beginning in 1969 at Kean College of NJ and then Alfred University in NY, Kathleen began a life long love affair with glass. Her work, installation pieces, cast glass, blown glass objects and drops all have an affinity with the natural world. Her inspiration comes from nature and water. Through her contemplation of the physical world she has made this material speak with a deep emotional voice. Kathleen has pushed the boundaries of the medium merging sculpture with craft to create masterful works in glass and metal.

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I Am Water

Bent glass and metal installations with drops and other forms

I grew up around water. New Jersey has some beautiful escapes like Long Beach Island State Park, and Cape May, but it wasn’t until I began canoeing the rivers of Western PA with a group of women that a much deeper connection developed. Or, my memory drove me back to the quiet moments walking the sand in winter just at the waters edge. There is a very early photo of myself setting up a drop installation. It is a theme that has continued to surface in my work through the years.

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In 1982 I rebuilt the glass studio at Carnegie Mellon University with my husband and volunteer, Ron Desmett. In that spirit, I thought we should make something together, like the way we build things, one suggestion to the other then back again, to go somewhere we hadn’t been before. Then later add etching and lines in the same kind of play, as a true collaboration.

At that time no one seemed to get the idea of two people especially a couple collaborating. Isn’t that what life is about? We did it.

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The Persuasion Series evolved during the fundraising period for the new glass center with my telling of the story about what would Pittsburgh be with the growth of the Pittsburgh Glass Center. For me its not just bricks and mortar, it is life changing, community changing, body changing. The dapples of aventurine on the surface of the warm brown glass are like goose bumps or shivers excitement contained within the vessel/body of the form.

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Vapors is an installation of seven standing metal forms holding clear etched lunglike sacks made of glass with hot attached smaller lower forms that are open or closed. The work was inspired by reading about Alchemy and the search for the philosopher’s stone or gold, the metaphor for truth. The Alchemists believed that they could distill gold from a certain combination of common elements through heat and evaporation and condensation. They talked about the spirit in the flask. Therefore the alembics or distilling containers had unique and anthropomorphic shapes such as the pelican or two forms twisting. I responded to the idea of the container holding the spirit or breath and creating these spirit forms that in some cases appear to be male and others female. They are made by two forms joining, one smaller and one larger, and that joining, in hot glass, is melted to the point of disappearing as the form is blown and swung. The final result is a new form that is just held in a metal stand that mimics the scientific holders for the alembics but on a human scale and attenpting to create a form that is in a moment of transmutation - giving way. The form appears to be breathing, and fluid.

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First it was the shape that I was attracted to - this plum bob, kind of meeting of sphere and cone, abstract, in clear. Very formal, until I awoke from a dream imagining them loaded with color, rich, heavy, layers of spinning color. Only later as we photographed on the studio floor did I remember being a 4 year old child on the floor of my dad’s toy store in Orange New Jersey.

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