A number of exhibits around Norman are not only exceptional because of the work itself but also because many of the artists have rediscovered and explored ancient processes. Rick and Tracey Bewley, whose show has just opened at Blue Apples Gallery, are in this group of highly adventurous artists. In their case, they make glass sculptures using a technique that goes back to pre-Roman Egyptian civilization.

The technique the Bewleys use is called "kiln-formed" glasswork. Originating in ancient Egypt, this method was almost lost to history after Roman glass blowing took over. Ironically, it was the invention of computer-controlled kilns, which allowed artists to heat and cool glass at specific rates, that revived the lost art. Here is how the Bewleys describe their approach to fused glassmaking:

"The process involves cutting pieces of glass from sheets or scraps, similar to making stained-glass designs. The glass can be puzzle-fitted together or layered on top of each other for different effects. The design is then assembled and fused together in a kiln. The result is a single, flat piece of glass, the assembly having melted together into one solid piece."

The artists then place the flat sheet over a "forming mold" and fire it a second time, which gives the piece its final shape. This process results in visual surprises and serendipities that delight artists and buyers alike. It also means each finished piece is unique, possessing all the qualities of an original work of art.

The Bewleys have a studio in OKC and formed their own company, Art Fusion Studio. Examples of their work can be found online at artfusionstudio.com. However, rather than rely on their Web site to get a feel for their work, I recommend visiting their show at Blue Apples. It will be time well spent. The sophistication of their designs in their range of color and shapes is so pleasing -- and clever. Sometimes their glass has a pale green cast, with a rippled surface on one side that reminds me of a waterfall momentarily stilled in time. Other sculptures have the glass incorporated in a wood frame (walnut or mahogany, for instance) where the frame has been cutaway in square sections, showing a section of the glass that has been etched or carved so that it fits into that little cutaway part just as a mini frame within a frame.

The sculpture titled "240" is a large piece of smokey-colored glass set into a black acrylic stand. The artists have etched (or perhaps simply fused?) designs into the glass, resulting in an elegant sculpture. Many of the pieces use bold shots of color to amplify their designs. "239" manages to include orange, blue and black to a gorgeous effect. In other works, the designs created from the glass shapes, along with the placement of colored accents, seem to form works for a new art deco age: Fifty years from now, you just know "Antiques Roadshow" will be abuzz with excitement over these striking glass works.

Another sculptural form assembled by the Bewleys is when they layer oblong and patterned sheets of glass behind each other. "348" is such an example, where two oblong sheets float red and small green circles back and forth between each other. Another sculpture allows the second sheet of glass to protrude over the first sheet, heightening its final design.

Art Fusion has a series of their glass plates -- and glass fused jewelry -- on exhibit at Blue Apples, too. Some of their plates are sculptural pieces in their own right, at least, if I owned one, it would be treated as such.

Along with the Web site, the Bewleys can be reached at Art Fusion studio, 209-0243 or through Blue Apples at 321-0342.

Elizabeth Burr


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