MARIA SPARRE-PETERSEN (Danish, b. 1967)
Sculptures from Epistemic Artifacts Series, 2021
31.5" H x 15.5" W x 4" D (each)
Maria Sparre-Petersen makes sculptures from recycled container glass, a material that has all the poetic qualities of virgin glass but is much kinder to the planet. She is fascinated by the plasticity and uncertainty of this hybrid material, which is rarely used by studio glassmakers. Sparre-Petersen melts containers in a furnace and then shapes the molten glass into balls, which appear like spherical drops of childhood mystique; she then composes these balls into a pattern which is fused in a frame of high-fired concrete. When heated, each sphere develops a membrane that remains visible as the balls fuse in the kiln, becoming of one piece but appearing distinct, like soap bubbles adhering to each other. An artistic chaos in an ordered array, or graphic elements of liquid mass in a structured frame. Form, pattern, color and light enter into a dialogue and create new stories. In some places, the glass appears matte or translucent — depending on how the light refracts in the material and its depth of the color.
Sustainability is a lifelong passion that Sparre-Petersen pursues with an experimental and socially oriented outlook. She includes the titles of sailor, designer, teacher, Master of Fine Arts and PhD on her CV. Together, these diverse skills paint a straight line to the practice that motivates and inspires Sparre-Petersen today: to spread awareness of recycled glass from a sustainable and ethical perspective. It is a crucial and deeply meaningful ambition, not least because it leaves the virgin materials in the ground, where they belong, and avoids exposing the maker to hazardous substances. Furthermore, used glass can be recycled infinitely without losing its material qualities — a capacity that textile, plastic and many other materials lack.
The particular material qualities of recycled container glass make for an interesting process. The recycled glass has to be handled differently because it is “shorter” when it is blown, so the glassmaker has to work faster. With this technique it is not always possible to fuse two used window panes because they may be made from different recipes, which means they do not expand in the same way and there- fore develop stress that will cause cracks — immediately or over time. Hence, recycling container glass requires a high level of craftsmanship and technique. And though the challenges of working with recycled materials are greater, so is the satisfaction of cracking the code and knowing that one is making a difference for the planet. Sparre- Petersen is continuously challenged by the specific qualities of the material, which throws up obstacles that she can resolve and also take advantage of.