By Joanna Shaw-Eagle
Washington Times Art Critic
June 25, 2003
"By Joanna Shaw-Eagle, reprinted with permission from the Washington Times"
Glass artist Tim Tate is one happy fella. Mr. Tate opened his first solo exhibit at Georgetown's Fraser Gallery yesterday. He says he created the exhibit's 19 pieces in the past four months and considers them his best work.
"I was on a roll," he says.
The glassmaker is also the new founder and co-director of the Washington Glass School, the first sculpturally based glass school in the city. The 42-year-old artist has been so busy organizing events such as Art-O-Matic 2000, curating exhibits such as GlasStijl at the Millennium Art Center and initiating Millennium's Meltdown Glass School that he hasn't had enough time to exhibit his art.
He has shown enough, however, to gain the imprimatur of the Smithsonian Institution. Its American Art Museum's Renwick Gallery bought his "Sacred Heart of Healing" — from his solid glass "Flaming Heart" series — for its permanent collection. He also won the competition for the International Design Competition AIDS Monument in New Orleans. His winning "Guardian Wall" is slated for installation in 2005.
But once Fraser offered him the show — now titled "Seized Moments ... Captured Memories" — Mr. Tate concentrated on embellishing his "Flaming Heart" series and creating a new group named "Canopic Jars." (Used in ancient Egyptian burials, canopics are covered urns containing the internal organs of the mummified dead.)
Ever since the 1999 death of his mother, Patricia Tate, the artist has obsessively made small glass hearts — the "flaming hearts" — to express his intense feelings of loss. "She died of pancreatic cancer," he says. "Before her passing, she was always there when I felt wounded. The hearts symbolize her always supportive sympathy.
But the images are not only for me and my loss, they're for anyone who has gone through a heartbreaking death."
Visited this week at the Glass School near the Washington Navy Yard, the goateed, 6-foot-plus Mr. Tate was finishing three canopic jars. "I woke up at 4 a.m. with the canopic idea," he remembers. "I was so excited I got out of bed and wrote them down."
He points at these mysterious, evocative jars. "I've immersed human figures in tall, horizontally cut cylindrical towers," he says. "Although we barely see the figures — they're almost like shadows — they're symbols of souls ready to go to the afterlife. This was also the first time I've worked with text and elusive imagery."
The jars, too, related to his mother's passing. He drilled writing into their metal middle sections and incised them with a curving script. He wrote on the red-topped jar, "When I look at your picture now, I stare into your face to see how much of me is there." On the blue-topped one he wrote, "I went to your room today and laid upon your bed to see if anything of you was left behind."
Also included in the exhibit are eight of his "flaming hearts" glass sculptures. Three of them are transparent and smallish, about 7 inches tall. Comparing them to earlier, larger works such as the "Heart" in the Renwick "that were serious, planned and conceptual," Mr. Tate says the smaller ones are intended to be "sketchier" versions.
The flames erupting from these smaller hearts were inspired by the "eternal flame" at John F. Kennedy's grave site at Arlington National Cemetery. As mentioned above, the heart itself stands for healing and memory. In these smaller hearts, he has placed simulated components of the organ within clear glass to give the sensation of a pulsating organ.
The three, large "Adaptations" hearts, of colored solid glass, are the exhibit's stars. While working the glass in 2,000-degree temperatures, he began with a blown glass bubble suspended at the end of a glass pipe. He then alternated surface heating and cooling steps with colored paint powders. He completed the piece by rubbing colors and blacks into cracks made by the hot-cold tensions. The three solid glass "hearts," which chronicle the journey and resolution of his grief, are mounted cheek-by-jowl on an exhibit wall.
The yellow-orange heart called "Past," with black and red cracks, stands for the beginning of his loss and is placed at the left. The rust-reddish heart titled "Present" is situated in the middle. The artist encircled its sensual, glossy surface with simulated thorns.
"The thorns are to show that the heart can be beautiful, but there's something there that still hurts," he says.
The gorgeous, shimmering-blue, iridescent heart called "Future" is mounted at the right of the threesome. "It was to show that everything can be beautiful from now on," Mr. Tate explains, heaving a peaceful sigh.
Visitors may not know exactly what draws them to Mr. Tate's art, but they'll find it mesmerizing. The more they examine it, the more they'll get back.
WHAT: "Seized Moments ... Captured Memories"
WHERE: Fraser Gallery, 1054 31st St. NW
WHEN: Noon to 3 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays, noon to 6 p.m. Saturdays, or by appointment, through July 16, 2003
© 2003 The Washington Times Company