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Biagio Scarpello: Glassblower

There is a space between that is normally missed by most.  This space holds a question few tend to ask, both of themselves and the world.  Biagio Scarpello has a tendency to always ask and find the answer that will expose itself through hard work and curiosity.  What Scarpello asks, we should should all ask, and never stop asking. 

Using the materials of glass, metal and found objects, Scarpello gives us the answers he finds and it's up to the viewer to realize what they are.  Because everyone's answer is different but the questions always remain the same.  

Check out more of Biagio Scarpello's work by CLICKING HERE

Biagio Scarpello working in the hot shop at San Jose State University.  Photo © Aimee Santos

You graduated from San Jose State University with an MFA in Spatial Arts in December.  How has the real world been treating you for the past six months?  What advice would you give future graduates?

 I spent a great deal of effort during grad school collecting tools anticipating having to set up my own studio in the near future.  As a result, I have been able to transition my studio practice into my home garage. The thing I miss most about grad school is the community.  It is inspiring to see people making art with a completely different approach to your own.  I feel like I am still transitioning from school into the “real word”, and the main factoring that is providing opportunities is my professional network.  In terms of advice I would say don’t burn bridges, because the community is smaller than we might think.

Biagio Scarpello working in the hot shop at San Jose State University.  Photo © Aimee Santos

Biagio Scarpello working in the hot shop at San Jose State University.  Photo © Aimee Santos

You are a glassblower by trade but your work involves metal and motors.  What was the catalyst towards incorporating new mediums with glass?

I was making art with found materials and motors long before I began blowing glass.  So I see it as glass infiltrating my existing art practice, rather than applying mixed media to glass.  When paired together, the glass and industrial components contrast one another and facilitate a dialogue.  This “conversation” between materials is especially important in the kinetic works where the machine performs a specific gesture.  For example, in “Dedicationthe paintbrush caresses the stretched glass with every rotation. This simple gesture conjures ideas of futility, perseverance, purposefulness, distress, and production.  These associations are facilitated by subtleties that exist within the relations of my choice in materials.

Biagio Scarpello working in the hot shop at San Jose State University.  Photo © Aimee Santos

Your portfolio holds much video documentation within it but have you considered creating a piece that only lived in video since finding gallery space to have a piece exist is sometimes few and far between?  Could you create pieces, demonstrate their abilities and videotape the results without needing a gallery to dignify that it lived out in the real world?

I have always been interested at the intersection of sculpture, video, and animation.  Some of my early inspirations are the stop motion video projects of Jan Svankmajer and the Quay Brothers.  All of these artists utilized video to document physical sculptures, and considered a fully edited animation the final product.  I am certain that non-gallery video works are in my near future.  

Matt Eaton and Biagio Scarpello working in the hot shop at San Jose State University.  Photo © Aimee Santos

Your work begs the viewer to participate and yet with the medium of glass there is the delicate notion that it might break.  How do you help the viewer get past that internal fear and towards interacting with your pieces?

Recently I have made works that examine suspense, and this internal fear is essential to accomplishing a truly visceral experience.  If there were no fear of failure, the work would simply not be interesting.  For this reason, I do not use signage that provides permission to interact with the works.  I am most successful when people are so curious that they dismiss social boundaries and gallery etiquette to investigate further.

Matt Eaton and Biagio Scarpello working in the hot shop at San Jose State University.  Photo © Aimee Santos

A test run on the limits of glass.  Photo © Aimee Santos

With your project ‘Pace’ you are demonstrating a particular dilemma in museums and galleries today.  Can you speak to what brought this piece to fruition and explain for the reader the dilemma?

This work was originally created for art viewers that move very quickly through exhibitions, merely glance at the works, and head directly for the wine bar and free cheese.  I wanted to make an artwork that demanded your attention, and forced people to interact at a certain ‘Pace.’

Teamwork is imperative in glass blowing.  One cannot accomplish one's goals without the help and assistance of another.  Photo © Aimee Santos

Glassblowing of any kind takes not just a teamwork mentality but facilities that support the creation of the work.  Have you thought about traveling outside the Bay Area to work with other teams and other facilities to explore not only the strategies that other artists use but also the fresh ideas that could come with those experiences?

The glass community is quite organized and very enthusiastic about hosting workshops, residencies, and exhibitions.  In the past three years I’ve had great experiences traveling to Asheville, Toledo, Pittsburgh, and Chicago where I collaborated with other artists. Most recently I have been working with performance artists that utilize the glass shop as a theatrical stage, and use glass in nontraditional and non-object based styles. My plan for 2015 is collaboration with Berlin based film artist, Matthew Sweetwood.  These cultural and technical exchanges certainly keep the glass community fresh, interdisciplinary, and progressing.