Susie J. Silbert delivered the Paul and Irene Hollister Lecture on Glass on Thursday, April 13, 2017 at 6 pm. Her talk was entitled “Blue Chip Artists, Glassy Thinkers, and Boro Boys: Navigating Contemporary Glass.”


Susie J. Silbert was appointed Curator of Modern and Contemporary Glass at The Corning Museum of Glass in 2016. Prior to joining the museum, she was an independent curator as well as a lecturer on the history of glass at the Rhode Island School of Design. Her recent exhibitions include #F*nked!, exploring the relationship between digital interfaces and handmade objects, Concept:Process, at Parsons The New School for Design, Material Location, at UrbanGlass, and SPRAWL, an interdisciplinary exhibition interpreting urban development at Houston Center for Contemporary Craft. Her writing has appeared in exhibition catalogs for the Chrysler Museum, Houston Center for Contemporary Craft, UrbanGlass, and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, as well as in American Art Collector, GLASS Quarterly, Metalsmith, and on the American Craft Council website. She contributed to the forthcoming book CAST, on casting in all media, edited by Jen Townshend and Renee Zettle-Stirling. She holds an MA in Decorative Arts, Design History, and Material Culture from Bard Graduate Center.

A case study in Howard Becker’s concept of “art worlds,” contemporary glass today incorporates several distinct constituencies operating in parallel. Blue chip artists with access to skilled craftspeople create elaborate objects that mine the material’s history and the decorative arts to speak to broad audiences. Working in a mode that recalls early modern makers such as Bernard Palissy and Wenzel Jamnitzer, “glassy thinkers,” use their artisanal knowledge of the properties of the material and its composition as fertile territory for works that may, in the end, not even be composed of glass. Under the radar, but perhaps the most influential in culture at large, are marijuana pipe makers. Harnessing phenomenal technical skills to pop culture aesthetics, these “boro boys” (and women) circumvent traditional patronage systems by using Instagram and other social media platforms to reach an ever-growing collector base. This lecture surveys this varied landscape in light of the history of studio glass and the collections of The Corning Museum of Glass.