Featured Artist: Kexin Wen

Featured Artists

When and how did you get started in stained glass? I've been interested in stained glass for as long as I can remember. As a child, I would sit in churches and watch the (often) biblical depictions come to life when a stray ray of sunlight cast its illumination our way. Sun shadows dancing. I dabbled in many media over the years, trying to find an outlet for some of the visions careening inside, but none of them took. Drawing, painting - even watercolours - no amount of professional training could guide my hand in a satisfactory way. But then there was the glass. I lived abroad for a few years, and wound my way through Europe on my way back to the States when I finished my Peace Corps Service. My last international destination was Paris, where one of my closest friends lives as an organist. Two beautiful autumn weeks of divine pastries, lavender light, music, and myriad cathedrals. From the towering behemoth that is Notre Dame to the stone spires of Mont Saint Michel, I spent dizzying hours transfixed in glass. I took photographs of the coloured light cast through the glass and onto stone floors. The vibrancy was impossible to contain and I felt compelled. I needed glass in a way I'd never needed anything else. I came back to the United States, moved to a photograph of a village on the banks of Lake Erie, and took a class. I've never looked back.

What inspires you? Passion. Music - especially Vienna Teng. I put her on loop when I'm working. Deep, resonating emotion. Intricacy and uniqueness. Love. I was singing Vienna Teng's The Last Snowfall, which is this beautiful and haunting portrayal of the undeniable fact that every moment could be our last. And I was thinking about how I'd depict that song in glass - lots of textured clears, swirling whites, shining mirrors and bits of iridescence - stark, black solder lines of naked tree branches shivering.

Do you create your own patterns or work from preexisting ones? When I started out, I worked from preexisting patterns. As I said earlier, my drawing capacity is painfully limiting. I do, however, love mathematics, puzzles, geometry, Pythagorus ... and I've been working much more from my own hand in the past couple of years. Most often, I work from designs, or photographs, which I either adhere to very closely, or take a bit of license with, as in La Muerta, which I adapted from a photograph in a Riverdance program. Right now I'm adapting a series of photographs from China, as well as a couple of rudimentary paintings I completed there, into glass patterns. (I've also been thinking about famous scientists/mathematicians - Galileo, Newton, Pascal, Harrison, Hubble - and what their theoretical whiteboards would look like-absolute chaos comprised of meaning and clarity. I wonder how I could depict them using the traditional marker coloors and blends of secondary colours.

You mentioned on your blog that you spent some time serving as a Peace Corps volunteer in China, how has that experience influenced your work? Ai, China. It was an all-encompassing piece of my life that changed everything about me except perhaps the deepest, most central core. China was an incredible growing and growing up for me. I experienced some incredibly beautiful and unusual moments, and some darker than ever before. Piecing myself back together was part of it, but any time you're deliberately exiting your comfort zone, there is going to be growth, and self-knowledge, and deeper understanding. In China, I gained real and abiding extended family; climbed mountains - there is nothing in the world like sitting on top of the Temple of Heaven mountain, on a rocky outcropping hanging over thin air watching barges puff down the Yangtze River. I ate brains and blood and chicken feet and rabbit heads ... and delicious duck, springy intestines, barbecued lamb and the best sweet and sour ribs I'd ever had. I travelled to Hell and back six times (Fengdu - Ghost City), held live fiddler crabs and magnolia blossoms in my hands, visited orphanages, wandered the Gansu grasslands, stayed in monasteries, hostels and homes, and ...that's just what I can remember today. I could list my experiences forever depending on time, reminders and the state of my soul. China was beautiful. China was hard. So was I, beautiful and hard. And hardened, just a bit. Scraping away at the layers of self defense, struggling to reach beyond them. That has been a challenge. A healing journey. My art has been a part of that - embracing and honouring my experiences and letting go (or trying) of some of the pain. This will continue with the show I'm putting together this year. I've needed to take the time to explore and process that experience. I'm also very committed to the Third Goal of Peace Corps, helping U.S. people to understand the people and culture of my country of service. Those aims made focusing on China in my current glasswork an easy decision. Fractured Landscapes is the umbrella title of the show about China. Some of the pieces are almost mosaic-using shards of glass and colourscaping to form the pictures. La Muerta is the first piece in this collection.

I especially like your piece entitled La Muerta. Tell us a bit more about it. My mother, who is also a strong inspiration for me, sent me a copy of Truly, Madly, Deeply - the movie with Juliet Stevenson and Alan Rickman. It's about a woman who misses her husband so much when he dies, that he comes back. The logistics of that quickly outweigh the romance, and there's a scene toward the end, just before he leaves, where he recites the Pablo Neruda poem (Neruda is also incredible) La Muerta. It's intense. He's speaking Spanish and she's translating. There's this line "my feet will want to march to where you are sleeping, but I will go on living." And that did it. I ruminated for a long time on how to do justice to that poem in glass. And then, a few years ago, at a Riverdance performance in Peoria, Illinois, my granddad insisted on giving me one of the wide, glossy, overpriced programs. And there she was. Inexplicable, in a Riverdance program, in shades of red, a woman dancing the flamenco. Her visage was contorted with what might have been pain, certainly was intensity. Her arms seemed at odd angles in the dance, her body caught in a snapshot of motion. Behind her, a crimson Celtic rune. She was my Muerta. I traced some shapes from the photograph, added several of my own. Stockpiled red glass for weeks. The original attempt was to make her over a meter high, and she was about half done at this time last year when I lifted her to turn to the back, and the tack solder job couldn't support the weight of the glass. She shattered around me, on the table, the floor, my legs and feet. When I came upon the idea for the Fractured Landscapes series, I knew she needed to be a part. I didn't have the passion for that particular scope on this particular project anymore. I wanted her accessible, delicate and detailed. I found the original pattern in a heap of discarded tracing paper, dismantled what was left of the original attempt, and used what I could to recreate her. Interesting note - the beautiful flaw in the textured crimson piece in the lower left hand corner was originally part of the center circle in the rune behind her, which was once shaped in a ying and yang symbol.

To contact Kexin Wen: Infinity Studio, Casey, Illinois. 330.231.9219 [email protected] www.dragonstar728.wordpress.com

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Meet the Delphi Bloggers - Experienced, Knowledgeable Associates who Love the Glass Art The people who write Delphi's blog, work in our store or answer our Project Helpline are artists in their own right. When you shop from Delphi you get experienced staff can help you select glass for projects, find the tools that are right for your budget and help you get started in a new art. That's why we're here, and why Delphi has been able to successfully help people around the world be creative since 1972. That's the Delphi difference! Delphi was founded in 1972 on the belief that making art glass projects should be enjoyable and rewarding for everyone, from beginner crafters to professional artists. We pride ourselves on customer service and expert knowledge about the crafts our customers enjoy. With 40 years of experience and retail, wholesale and educational divisions, Delphi is dedicated to our customer's satisfaction. Delphi is located in Lansing, MI. Photo: Leslie Sunderlin, Customer Service Lead, Glass Fuser