Sunday, March 6, 2011

Lino Tagliapietra, a genius in glass

Although historically artisanship has been seen as an inferior form of art, in Italy the relation has always been close, starting with the fact that many of the first rate artists came from families of artisans. Tintoretto ("little dyer") was the son of a dyer, Mantegna was the son of a carpenter, and so on. "Minor" activities such as cuisine, winemaking and couture have all taken on an art-like status in Italy, as we know. But sometimes there is no doubt that what would normally be considered a work of artisanship is actually a work of art.

Such is the case with the living vetraio (glassmaker) Lino Tagliapietra, born in 1934 on the island of Murano. The Venetian island is of course famous for its glass, and has specialized in this material for centuries and centuries. Tagliapietra is part of the tradition, and was sent to do his apprenticeship around the age of eleven with famed fellow Venetian Archimede Seguso. I think, though, that this is a case of the student surpassing the teacher. The unassuming craftsman with his simpatico faccino (cute little face) is an explosion of wondrous creativity and refinement, supported by an unparalleled mastery of his form and its techniques. Techniques that he has worked to share at an international level, going against the long-standing tradition of jealously guarding the trade secrets of the island of Murano. There is also something touching and admirable about such a great artist who chooses to work in such a fragile medium, as if he was not so much interested in the enduringness of the product, as entranced by the possibilities of the light and lightness of glass.

I could sit and watch his wonderful works for hours in Google Images. If you'd like to learn more, start with his official site, found here.