Alex Gabriel Bernstein’s cast, carved and polished glass sculptures are organic-like forms. Many pieces evoke images of natural structures and formations.
In many of his most recent pieces, which are on display at Winterowd Fine Art from July 29 through August 22, Bernstein fuses steel to the surface of glass. It’s a process that developed out of an accident in his parents’ glass studio.
“I was in graduate school in Rochester (Rochester Institute of Technology’s School for American Crafts) when I went home to North Carolina during a winter break to visit my parents and decided to try my hand at welding,” Bernstein explains.
“I was in my father’s studio when metal sparks from the piece I was welding flew off the table and hit one of his glass sculptures. When everything cooled down, I noticed that specks of metal had melted onto the surface of one of his pieces. I apologized to my father (he understood), but it gave me an idea of something new I could do with glass.”
Adhering steel to glass has opened up all kinds of artistic possibilities in Bernstein’s work. Steel can be made to look like rocks and other natural formations. The addition of steel can add an opaque quality to a translucent glass piece. “I feel I can tell more stories with glass and steel together,” he adds.
Bernstein’s artistic process begins by putting small pieces of colored glass into a basic steel mold and firing the glass in a kiln. Blocks of glass take anywhere from one week to one month to cool. Shapes are cut out of the blocks with a large diamond saw and refined with grinding tools.
Although Bernstein has a good idea of how the final piece will look, some of the colors resulting from the completion of the firing process can not be anticipated. “I have been surprised in great and negative ways,” he says.
The former head of the department of glass at Worcester Center for Crafts in Massachusetts, Bernstein returned to his hometown of Asheville in 2007 to set up a studio and focus on creating his own work full-time.