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Stephen Rolfe Powell


Stephen Powell

Publication Year: 2007

A world-class colorist of international standing in modern glass, Stephen Rolfe Powell creates his work in a quiet outpost of rural Kentucky. His art and his life bridge other such divides. The radiant murrini skins of his glass vessels have an old Italian pedigree, yet his making techniques are radically American in their dramatic individuality. He is an award-winning classroom professor and a generous ambassador for glass, yet he is at the same time so uncompromising in his dedication to his creative work that he stands among modern glass’s most nuanced seekers after the eternally sensual and elusive mysteries of light and color. An illustrated chronicle of Powell’s glass-blowing career, this book charts the evolution of Powell’s remarkable body of work. Dazzling photographic close-ups detail the luminous murrini patterns that have become Powell’s signature and reveal new ways of appreciating the complex interplay of color and texture in his art. Biographical and analytical essays by Mark Lucas, Laurie Winters, and James Yood explore such topics as the teamwork that is critical to Powell’s unique glass making process; his teaching and learning experiences on the road, from the former Soviet Union to Salt Lake City during the Olympics; and the story of the two freak injuries that deeply affected his work and how he thinks about it. Reflections by Kenn Holsten, Marvin Lipofsky, Dante Marioni, Bonnie Marx, John Roush, and Lino Tagliapietra further supplement the book. The book’s stunning photographs encourage the viewer to see Powell’s work from different viewpoints, highlighting the unique interactions of transparent, opaque, and translucent glass and Powell’s bold color combinations. Stephen Rolfe Powell: Glassmaker vividly portrays the tension and excitement involved in the artist’s nontraditional, team approach to working with molten glass.

Published by: The University Press of Kentucky


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pp. vii

First, this book would not have been possible without my old friend Julius Friedman, who brought confidence and integrity to the creation of the book, and my long-time best friend Mark “Looney” Lucas, who has experienced the ups and downs of life with me and has tied the book together with sincerity and...

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Arabesques of Color

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pp. 1-4

Reader, turn the page. It’s not that I don’t admire my prose; I’m as vain as the next writer. But if there ever was an art book where text might be superfluous, this could be it. If there ever was an artist whose work so completely and wonderfully said, “Enjoy me, drink deep with your eyes, immerse yourself in the sheer pleasure of looking, let color...


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pp. 5-68


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pp. 69-108


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pp. 109-155

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Genesis and the Vitreous Singularity

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pp. 157-162

The spirit of creation resides in the colossal, multicolored vessels of Stephen Rolfe Powell. Through an evocative Rothko-like use of abstract color fields and a sensual vessel format, his works explore the fragile boundaries of creation: artistic, sexual, divine, cosmic, and mythic. Evoking notions of the heroic and the primal, Powell’s vessels plunge both artist...

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Road Trip to New Orleans

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pp. 165-166

In the summer of 2004, I made a trip to New Orleans by way of New York City and Danville, Kentucky. It started out at the SOFA show in New York. My old buddy Stephen Powell was there at SOFA as well, and he had graciously invited me to come down to his spread in Kentucky right after the show to cool out for a few days, then ride with him down to the...

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In Love with Glass

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pp. 169

The first time I observed the work of Stephen Powell, I was attracted to his use of particularly colored murrini, and I was drawn into the objects themselves. At the time, I was unaware that the artist was American, and my first thought was “To which Venetian maestro can I attribute such artistry?” The multitude of colors...

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An Extraordinary Maverick

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pp. 170

One moonlit and starlit night, I stood atop the roof of a building on the campus of Centre College in Danville, Kentucky. There I witnessed the single most remarkable performance of all my years with the studio glass art movement. I was standing enveloped by the roar of glassmelting furnaces, the flare of gas torches, and the sound of incessant, throbbing...

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A Commencement Weekend

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pp. 173

I have known and represented Steve now for over 10 years. During that period there have been many opportunities to get to know him personally. Several times he has spent a few days with us at the gallery in Stockbridge. These times have always been during special collector events, and Steve has been very generous in sharing his knowledge and skills both...

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A Few Days in Kentucky

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pp. 174

Stephen Powell and I first met in 1984, when I was a visiting artist at Summervail, Colorado Mountain College. Since then I’ve valued our friendship and professional relationship over the years. Among the things that impress me about Stephen are his technical skills, his dedication to his own work, and his...

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A Colleague and Friend

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pp. 177

Professor Stephen Powell is a remarkable member of the Centre College community. While he is known by all as an accomplished, internationally recognized glass artist, we at Centre know him first as an excellent professor. One can only be impressed by Stephen’s capacity to have an impact on so many young people—those who major in the visual arts and those...

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Color and Sweat: An Anecdotal Biography of Stephen Rolfe Powell

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pp. 181-195

Growing up on Faculty Row adjacent to Birmingham-Southern College, Steve envied his friend Jim Burch because Jim’s dad was the college basketball coach, not a mere professor like Steve’s. Steve and Jim played whatever youth sport was in season; they religiously watched the Bear Bryant Show on television; they finagled sideline passes for...


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pp. 198-204

Select Permanent Collections

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pp. 205

Early Work

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pp. 206-207


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pp. 208-212


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pp. 213

E-ISBN-13: 9780813127101
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813124643

Page Count: 228
Publication Year: 2007