Creative Labor Shared by Artists

by Cybele Maylone, Executive Director of The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum, 2020.

In Carried on Both Sides, Caroline Woolard, Helen Lee, Alexander Rosenberg, and Lika Volkova explore the amphora, an object that links the past with the present through its use and form. Originally used to store and transport goods like olive oil, the amphora evolved to inform the @ sign, a ubiquitous symbol in contemporary communication. Woolard collaborated with glassblowers to create glass sculptures, a choice of material that connects this Greek and Roman form to 21st century technology.

While primarily made in ceramic, amphorae were in use during an age that was rich for glassmaking: some of the most exquisite examples of early blown glass date to the Greek and Roman empires. In Carried on Both Sides, glass serves as a link to both the past and the future. Not only is glass an important record of human creation across the centuries, today it is a defining material of contemporary life; it clads our buildings, supports our telecommunications systems, and mediates our experience with screen-based technologies.

In addition to glass’s metaphorical value, the material is perfectly suited for a project exploring physical and intellectual labor. Because of the highly physical — and often incredibly uncomfortable — nature of the glassblowing studio, creating 2,000-degree molten glass necessitates groups of people working together to accomplish a singular piece. An object created in a glassblowing studio is generally overseen by an artist with a specific vision leading a small team. The teams who work at the bench are the eyes and hands of the artist behind the project, serving as fabricators for their vision. For Carried on Both Sides, Woolard conceived of a project where the physical and creative labor would be shared by artists working together, upending the traditional relationship in a glass studio.

While Lee and Rosenberg are technically skilled glassblowers — whose abilities in the studio would make them highly skilled fabricators — as artists, they each employ their technical skills in larger conceptual practices that engage a variety of media and explore ideas around language and labor. The natural collaborative element of the glass studio was thus pushed even further: Lee, Rosenberg, and Woolard did not just share the physical labor of creating amphorae, they shared the intellectual and creative direction of the project as well, resulting in a work that embodies the very ideas that it explores.

Cybele Maylone is the Executive Director of The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum. A non-collecting institution located in Ridgefield, CT, The Aldrich was one of the first contemporary art museums in the country and is today one of the oldest. Prior to leading The Aldrich, Maylone spent five years as the Executive Director of UrbanGlass in Brooklyn, NY.