Brent Sommerhauser is melting glass inside the Cosmopolitan’s P3Studio, explaining its properties while a nearby kiln jumps 400 degrees per hour, topping out at nearly 1,500.
“My first plan was to build a nightingale floor,” he says, referring to the Japanese floors designed to chirp when walked upon to deter unwanted visitors. The P3Studio artist-in-residence has rendered tornadoes, giant sheets of paper and black holes out of flooring, so an actual floor, no matter how complex, wouldn’t be out of the question.
But with glass, a main ingredient in Sommerhauser’s work, he opted for a public workshop where visitors can make their own glass tile artworks, revealing the mystery and explaining details, like the hardness of colors and how the softness of blue and black results in the malleable and bold marks seen in a minimalist “sketch” on the wall made by a visiting neurosurgeon.
While his own work is process heavy, often involving complex experiments, intense problem solving and laborious carpentry, his residency is more of a 101 experience in kiln-formed glass for anyone who wants to slide up to the table and lay bits of color onto 3-by-3-inch tiles—a rare chance to create glass art on a night on the town. “It’s been a lot more popular than I thought,” he says. “It’s such a mysterious, esoteric material, so not everybody gets to see how it’s made.”
Visitors use glass rocks, tiles, powders and spaghetti-like glass sticks that are fused into one tile during a 12-hour kiln process. A couple walks in to see if their works have been fired yet and to check on the overall progress, but with the portable kilns each holding only nine tiles, time is the main determining factor.
The tiles are photographed and added to Instagram (#P3glassart), creating a digital community quilt. Eventually, they’ll be incorporated into a larger work that will remain at the Cosmo. For now, the completed tiles are lined up on the wall: abstract and decorative works, thoughtful line compositions and representational attempts and successes.
In slow moments, Sommerhauser continues experimenting with his silver and copper point “wind drawings,” which are similar to his works on paper (created by harnessing wind from a vacuum cleaner or blower), only with metals on opaline glass.
But the chemistry lessons, disguised by the excitement of color and form, are keeping him busy.
Brent Sommerhauser Through September 13; Wednesday & Thursday, 5-10 p.m.; Friday-Sunday, 6-11 p.m. Cosmopolitan’s P3Studio, 702-698-7000