by Marshall Fallwell, Jr.
Art is a tough gig. Maybe the toughest way to make a living in a mercantile society. Yet, after fifteen years, David Patchen’s glass creations are available in twenty-two galleries across the U.S. and in Toronto and Vienna. In 2010, he was an artist in residence in Seto City, Japan, presenting lectures and exhibits of his work. And he has accomplished all this by word of mouth alone. He has no publicist, no manager or agent. He just works. David is a gaffer, a glassblower.
Among artists, glassblowers are the tightrope walkers, the alchemists, the daredevils and showoffs, firewalkers, magicians. So, if art is such a hard gig to begin with, why make it dangerous, too? And expensive. Suzanne may have gotten her tea and oranges all the way from China, but David Patchen has to go all the way to New Zealand for the glass rods from which emerge his . . . I want to say confections. But they are not confections at all, or anything Debussy would have mimicked in music. More Brahms than Respighi. More architecture than capriccio. More exquisitely difficult procedure than just daubing paint around. And less music or self-expression than continuous mortal combat between the artist and his medium—as if a painter expected his cadmium red to crawl up the brush and incinerate him.
Much modern art glass is confection, pretty lights and shapes, fish, clowns, and crystal bunny rabbits. You just let the medium do its thing, which, in the case of molten glass, is to droop and flow like honey. Just about everything from Murano or Czechoslovakia. Wonderful stuff. But there’s so much of it.
Patchen, on the other hand, perfects his art one piece at a time, his techniques so arcane and intricate that he might not finish more than a few pieces a week, sole survivors of a brutal process.
Frozen light. Frozen fire.
See David Patchen’s work at davidpatchen.com and at Nashville’s Two Moon Gallery, 2905 12th Avenue South, Unit 108. www.twomoongallery.com