Inspired by the Tlingit stories of his great-grandmother, Susie Johnson Bartlett, and other relatives from Southeast Alaska, Preston Singletary has combined his heritage with traditional European glassblowing to create a body of work that is featured in museums from the Pacific Northwest to Switzerland, and now his exhibition Preston Singletary: Echoes, Fire and Shadows be available at the Anchorage Museum from Feb. 3 through April 22.
Singletary was drawn to glass blowing at a young age, having been introduced to the art by his friend Dante Marioni, the son of Paul Marioni, who was involved in the American studio glass movement. After graduating high school in 1982, Singletary worked as a night watchman at Seattle’s Glass Eye Studio, where he was promoted to glassblower within months.
He learned the fundamental techniques, creating paperweights and ornaments and honed these skills further on Benjamin Moore’s glassblowing team. Working alongside respected glassblowers like Pino Signoretto and Lino Tagliapietra, he learned traditional Venetian techniques.
It was during this period that Singletary thought to combine the tales of his childhood with his passion for glassblowing and he began experimenting with incorporating Tlingit design in his glassblowing.
According to representatives from the Anchorage Museum, Singletary views his exhibition in Alaska as a homecoming.
“I am honored to have all this national attention for my work, but my connections to the Native Community and the Indigenous world community is where I get my inspiration. I have a tremendous sense of purpose with my work because it represents my family, history, community and the confluence of cultures as I experience it.”
Singletary’s work draws from Tlingit art, stories, and culture — he creates glass sculptures in the form of masks, rattles and hats using a complex combination of techniques, including glassblowing, sand carving and inlaying.
The exhibition will feature nearly 50 works of art, borrowed from museums, the artist’s personal collection and other private collections, some of which will be seen publicly for the first time. One such work being debuted publicly for the first time is his “Clan House” — a 16-by-10-foot glass triptych recalling the interior of a Tlingit longhouse.
The exhibition also features original music and a documentary film.
The exhibition will run from Feb. 3 through April 22 at the Anchorage Museum. For more information, visit www.anchoragemuseum.org.