Artist throws twigs at glass nest

Friday, September 11, 2009 | 12:01 a.m. CDT; updated 10:07 p.m. CDT, Monday, September 14, 2009
Artist Susan Taylor Glasgow finishes her installation of "The Communal Nest" by laying down crushed glass, called cullet, Sunday at George Caleb Bingham Gallery at MU. Glasgow said the cullet serves as a "barrier from reality" for her 10-foot wide sculpture.

COLUMBIA — Birds make their nests out of twigs and leaves; artist Susan Taylor Glasgow created hers out of glass.

Glasgow’s 10-foot-wide sculpture, "The Communal Nest," was made from hundreds of large, delicately interwoven glass and twigs. Arranged in a circle surrounding a simple metal chair, it represents growth and shelter.


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The nest is the centerpiece of the "Absence of Body" exhibit, which is at MU's George Caleb Bingham Gallery through Oct. 1.

The piece was modeled after robin and eagle nests, Glasgow said. The initial concept was of an entirely glass nest, but repeated breakage led to the addition of real twigs.

Glasgow began assembling the nest nearly a week before the exhibit's opening on Monday. After building the nest itself, she put a discarded metal chair on crushed glass in the center. The chair has an indented glass cushion, giving the piece its “human presence,” Glasgow said.

Crushed glass, called cullet, creates what she describes as a “barrier from reality,” separating the nest from the real world. Buckets of cullet were dumped around the nest and carefully spread.

Glasgow said taking down the nest requires an assembly line. Each twig is plucked from the nest, wrapped in a protective covering and packed into crates. Disassembling the work takes three people up to 14 hours.

It is like playing a game of Jenga or Pick-Up Sticks, she said. The nest is never the same when rebuilt from the inside out.

Glasgow said her piece reflects the “dichotomy of woman in the household.” She also has been a dressmaker, so stitch work, kitchen materials and domestic activities are apparent in much of her work.

Over the years, artists have sent Glasgow their own twigs to add to the ever-expanding nest. The farthest came from Australia, and Glasgow said she has received inquiries from intrigued artists all over the world.

Artists are not the only contributors. During Glasgow’s three-month residency in 2008 at the Pittsburgh Glass Center in Pennsylvania, she held a glass workshop where women from a women’s shelter participated in making the glass twigs.

She will hold a “master class” this month where up to four people can make a glass twig for $550. The money will help cover materials for the workshop as well as a donation to Columbia's McCambridge Center to help pay for medical and dental needs. The center provides substance abuse treatment services in a residential setting.

The center helps women recover from substance abuse, as well as works with them to re-enter the work force, said Susan Schopflin, the center's quality improvement and marketing director.

In conjunction with Glasgow’s installation, sponsors of the McCambridge Center auctioned bird masks Tuesday at Bingham Gallery. The auction was the first McCambridge fundraiser based fully on art, Schopflin said.

Yolanda Ciolli, creator of a clay bird mask called "Talons of Strength," was one of 10 featured mid-Missouri artists at the exhibit's VIP reception. Ciolli said she has ties to the local center.

“I have a couple of people close to me who were treated successfully at the center,” Ciolli said.

The bird masks were a good fit with "The Communal Nest," Glasgow said.

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