Mary Tantillo Presents New Glass Series, ‘Ripple and Ray’

By PAT JOHNSON | Aug 08, 2018
Artwork by: Mary Tantillo ‘First Light’ fused glass panel by Mary Tantillo of SwellColors in Surf City.

Artist Mary Tantillo has done a lot with glass. She’s cut it and made stained glass, added LBI beach sand to bubbles of glass for her trademarked Beach Baby Beads. She’s slumped it in her kiln to make sun-catchers of all kinds, glass fish platters and ice cream bowls. She’s pounded it in a cement mixer to make milky beach glass and then put those shards in original two-sided frames for viewing as seascapes. Can there be another way to explore the ever-malleable substance? In her new series, “Ripple and Ray,” she has used powdered glass to make wall art.

“This is a total departure for me,” said Tantillo on Monday in her SwellColors Glass Studio and Gallery, 1715 Long Beach Blvd. in Surf City. A departure because she’s been making the most of glass’ transparent attributes – and her previous art is meant to hang in a window.

These framed glass works are sketches in glass particles that have been fused in the kiln on sections of colored glass. “There are five different shades of blue, white and gray. I really like the pieces that are done on the gray glass,” she said.

In her showroom she displays a black and white photograph of a breaking wave by Chris Pfiel that served as the inspiration. “I mean, that’s where I got the idea from,” said Tantillo.

In her workroom are jars of powdered, colored glass. She explained her process: “Large sheets of glass are first cut down to the sizes I want, then I draw on them using a Sharpie. Then I take a plastic spoon and literally spoon the powders on the glass and shape them using a variety of materials: paint brushes, rulers, knives or wires. It’s very expressive and more painterly than my previous work.”

For her opening on Friday she made this artist’s statement: “I sat on a beach watching the sunrise one morning wondering where does something end and where does it begin? I watched the sun peek over the horizon and the beautiful waves roll in and was immersed in space and time; feeling as much like the sun and salt water in the ocean.

“Am I at a beginning? Or an end? Or somewhere in between? The waves wash along the shore and go back out to sea. The sun rises higher in the sky fueling life. Feeling limitless, I realize there is no beginning and no end, just ripples and rays.”

Tantillo has been creating in series, utilizing the idea of a work made from her one-a-day sketches. She still creates a daily sketch from her Harvey Cedars beach.

After the completion of “A Year in Glass,” Tantillo embarked on multiple other glass collections. After Superstorm Sandy, she completed a series called “Reclaimed,” which was largely inspired by the process of recovery after the storm. This series included a mix of stained glass windows as well as large-scale sea glass-filled frames.

The following series, “Tumbled,” carried the filled-frames even further. She worked with a local carpenter to create custom shadowbox frames out of milled white pine. Each of the frames was filled with glass that was recovered after Sandy and tumbled in a huge concrete mixer with LBI sand and seawater. These softened pieces were layered in the frames, building up gorgeous abstract landscapes.

Last spring Tantillo started a new “Year in Glass,” a stained glass series inspired by the sun. Each window has a sun design made for every day of the year. The first collection in the series is from spring drawings and called “Origin.”

“Then I took a break to do something different and came up with the wall pieces. I’ve done 50 of them. Next year, I’ll do the winter part of the Year in Glass series.”

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