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Louis C. Tiffany - Fusing Nature and Light

Posted on: Wednesday, January 10, 2007

I must confess that I have never been a big fan of Louis Comfort Tiffany's designs. His glass pieces always seemed a bit garish to me and candy-coated in their appeal. I tried to remedy this recently by visiting the Metropolitan Museum of Art's current exhibit, 'Louis Comfort Tiffany and Laurelton Hall—An Artist’s Country Estate' on view until May 20, 2007. Laurelton Hall, completed in 1905, was Louis Comfort Tiffany's extraordinary country estate in Oyster Bay, New York. It was a carefully architected mosaic garden of all of his aesthetic delights. The exhibition at The Met features Tiffany's personal collections of his own work—the legendary stained-glass windows, paintings, glass and ceramic vases—as well as the artist's collections of Japanese, Chinese, and Native American works of art. After viewing the exhibit I was curious to see what other pieces of Tiffany's were stashed in The American Wing at the museum. There were very few visitors here compared to the crowded rooms of the Cantor Exhibition Hall.

What I discovered quite amazed me.

There was complete serenity in these rooms and a surreal quality in the way that Tiffany's objects seemed fused by light and color. It was a liquid garden of sorts with organic details that animated the surface of glass and interior reflection.

The celluloid quality of nature came to life. Insects, flowers, and rippling stained-glass skins animated the exhibition space with a monad-like vibrational field.

The artist's vision and his view into/onto nature seemed less stylized and more universal somehow. Perhaps Tiffany's work is indeed for the masses as some like to criticize, but if this deepens our awareness of our connection to nature, so be it. I am now a convert, though not of the lamp-lit sort.


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