LI artists find splendor in the glass

Bengt Hokanson and Trefny Dix live in a part of the Hamptons that could more correctly be called the Un-Hamptons. Pine forests need their house. There is not a beach or jitney in sight. Sag Harbor is about three miles down the road, but might as well be a hundred. All things considered, this is the perfect place for their kind of art.

Next to the home where Hokanson was raised is a so-called “hot shop” where the temperature in a large blast furnace and an “embers” can reach 2,100 degrees. Next to them is another furnace called a “glory hole,” where balls of shapeless glass sit before being pushed, pulled, woven, or blown into amazing shapes.

On a recent day, these furnaces sat cold, awaiting the arrival of a critical partial replacement. But it’s easy enough to imagine a typical afternoon here – an industrialder factory line right out of Dickens, with enough heat to make metal or glass liquid.

“Either you love it or you hate it,” Hokanson says of glassblowing. It’s also easy enough to imagine why.

Some of their work is on display in the exhibition “Fire and Form: New Directions in Glass” at the Long Island Museum in Stony Brook through December 19, along with two other distinguished glassblowers – Andy Stenerson from Amagansett and Marianne Weil from Orientere.

“There are not many glassblowers on Long Island, but there are definitely more and more artists here who work with glass,” says Joshua Ruff, the museum’s director of Collections & Interpretation. “These four have an established working group.”


Glassblowing is a complicated and expensive craft, which is extremely difficult to get right, and effortlessly easy to make mistakes. Along with a handful of other glassblowers out here, Hokanson and Dix achieved the former.

A married couple with two teenage children (Asha and Cassius, who so far have no particular interest in glassblowing, Dix says), have both been to this since meeting as a student in New Orleans back in the early ’90s, when Hokanson studied archeology .

Late last summer, the Long Island Museum erected an exhibit that also runs through Dec. 19, dedicated to Louis Comfort Tiffany’s famous stained glass windows. Ruff figured it out because so many people “associate [Tiffany] with art, we decided to build an exhibition that showed a lot of other different aspects of the art of making glass. “

Glassblowing is really hot – pun intended shamelessly – while there is a popular ongoing Netflix series, “Blown Away”, as proof of that. But the real action has long been in Seattle, where Dale Chihuly – along with the museums, hot shops and Pilchuck Glass School dedicated to his work – is based. Some of the Chihuly-inspired works have gained fame because it is so imaginatively magical with its soaring curly lines of glass spiers as tall as buildings. By contrast, the Long Island Museum’s exhibit is the miniaturistic version of it. Small in scale but equally exotic, there are about 50 works on display, nearly a third of the talented Long Islanders.


The many pieces by Dix and Hokanson that are here tend to be what is more commonly associated with glass art in the popular fantasy: Delicately curved vessels adorned with “murrine” color patterns or swirling with them. (Based on a technique dating back 4,000 years, “murrines” are layers of color used to create patterns in glass.)

Some of the Stenerson pieces are so-called “roundels” or circles of glass sculpture that are meant to be put in windows so that natural light can pass through them. From the ceiling nearby hangs a pair of Stenerson lamps designed to look like lobster pots. (Maritime themes are great with the local artists: Bohanson and Dix incorporate different patterns that are meant to evoke sails in some pieces.)

Then there are Weil’s pieces. These include a pair of solid blocks of glass, wrapped in copper wire, both of which seem to manifest their own light source – different shades of blue and green coming from within.

“What You Need to Know About Marianne, and Really Everyone in This Exhibition, With One Exception – Deborah Czeresko [winner of the first season of “Blown Away”] “Is that they all started as something else early on,” says Ruff. Weil was a sculptor, he says, who began incorporating glass into his work about 15 years ago.

Coincidentally, so was Dix. “I had no interest in glass when I was a sculptor student,” says Dix, who studied art at Indiana University. “But when I started working in a studio where they cast glass, I saw many similarities [with sculpture] and the glass was so much more interesting in terms of its color and how the shape could change. “

Hokanson and Dix started their first studio in Greenport, then moved it – lock, warehouse and barrel – to North Carolina and later to Durango, Colorado, before moving home in 2013.

“When we moved back,” Hokanson says, “everything has changed [but] we also realized how important it was to be a Long Islander. … We had totally underestimated that. ”

WHAT “Fire and form: New directions in glass”

WHEN | WHERE Until and including 19 December at 12.00 Thursday-Sunday, The Long Island Museum, 1200 Rte. 25A, Stony Brook

INFO $ 10, $ 7 for 62 years and older, $ 5 for 6-17 year olds and college students with ID, free for 5 years and under; 631-751-0066.


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