Artist Profile: Jerry Kung

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The second artist interview in my artist profile series explores the amazing glass blowing of Jerry Kung, brother of one of my good friends and Artist in Residence at the Tacoma Museum of Glass.
How did you get into glass blowing?

I got into glass making at art school. After a short stint of Latin American Literature and Animal Behaviorism, I entered Rhode Island School of Design as a ceramicist. These two mediums have a lot in common particularly between thrown ceramics and off hand glass blowing. They both rely on gravity and centrifugal force, except, they work from different axes. Clay revolves around the y-axis and glass, the x-axis.
I remember liking the idea of starting and finishing something in one sitting. Instant gratification, or so it seemed. The basic idea is you start with a little bit of material and add more as you go. Once everything is blown, manipulated, and completed you put it into a oven and take it out a day later. Simple right?  16 years later and I'm still discovering details within details within details.  In retrospect, I’ve spent a lot of time blowing bubbles in my life. I wonder if I should consider this as a personal developmental concern. After all, most kids stop blowing bubbles much earlier in life. 

What inspires your work?

There are a lot of things I find inspirational. Most of them are mentally framed around an idea I read a while back. I've interpreted the excerpt as such: artists are litmus tests and filters for/of their surroundings. They breathe in their surroundings and breathe out something a little different. The artist as a filter. With that in mind I guess I’m inspired by process.

Aside from the process, in short, I’m inspired by outdated machines and technology, heady philosophical quotes from the 18th century enlightenment period, animals and how they figure out hierarchy and pecking order, and the negligible daily remnants of what was there before nothing was there…
How did you come up with the "creatures"?

Those Creatures...  The Creatures were born from making things and working with people. Glassblowing is rarely a one person operation. The process hasn’t changed very much for a long time, arguably centuries.  Although new technology for heating and melting things has developed, how blown glass is made is limited by what it is, and what it is dictates what one can do with it.

I think we started exploring these objects at the beginning of 2008 and maybe as early as late 2007. Alex Abajian, whom  I collaborate with on this body of ideas, and I had a bustling design/build company, at that time. We made lots of glass for architects, designers, and artists. Lots of work equals lots of repetition. With lots of repetition little details start making themselves visible. We were fixated on those details. The most notable ones governed our movements as well as our work flow. Although our personal interests were very different our collective interests started to manifest with the exploration of these forms.
Heat, gravity, and breath are the fundamental elements of glassblowing. 

Heat: you either have it and glass moves or you don’t and it doesn’t. 
Gravity: well that’s inescapable. things fall down.
Breath: is the momentary skeletal structure setting things in place. 

I've lost count of how many bubbles have caught my breath. It's got to be in or near the hundred thousand range, if not more. I’ve noticed some things about one’s breath, a little breath can do as much as a big one, it only requires a little forethought.

We wanted to take a snapshot of breath and movement, frozen in time and governed by limiting process.

You were an artist in residence at the Tacoma Museum of Glass. That is huge, considering the prevalence of glass artists in the Northwest.

I'm really happy for the residency at the Tacoma Museum of Glass. The residency came through a juried donation piece for the annual MOG auction. Our donation was a small grouping of five mirrored Creatures. We won our residency by way of the People’s Choice Award. I think this was the most fitting way to win. People got to experience the light and reflection of the space. People got to engage with the movements that we captured and brought from hundreds of miles away. People got to lend the images of themselves into the surfaces of the forms. 

The forms we made at the MOG, all hundred and uh… lot of them are going to be unveiled at Vessel Gallery in Oakland, California on August 1st. This show lasts the entire month. We are planning to assemble a massive array of these forms to consume the interior of the gallery as well as the viewing audience. The final layout is still under wraps and i wouldn’t want to let the cat out of the bag before the show.

What next?

After the show at the Vessel Gallery, I plan to do something with environment… installation… What’s a word for a lot of breathing? Hyperventilate.