Artscape: Hope: 2009 End of Summer Holiday Benefit

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

As glass artist Jason Antol stepped up to the workbench in his studio, he said, "If I could give everyone the process along with the finished piece, I would. It's like a dance." Then he did some moves to illustrate the point.

On one end of a light metal pole, Antol's assistant, Caleb Mroczka, gathers several layers of clear and colored molten glass, so hot it seems like you could be burned just by gazing at its alarming shade of orange. The pole, which is constantly rotated to keep the mass from drooping to one side, is handed over to Antol.

He places it across two parallel metal bars and, as one hand keeps the glass spinning, the other uses something like a giant wooden soup spoon to give its mass the form of a fiery tall-boy can. The wood's been soaking in water but the contact shoots off sparks.

Antol continues shaping with similarly medieval tools, large scissors and scorched pliers that cut the air with a harsh slicing sound as the glass between their pincers cools. When that happens, the glass goes back into the glory hole, a chamber that reheats it at temperatures of over 2,000 degrees.

Eventually Antol pulls and cuts out the shape of a long, lean torso, what will ultimately be an angel in black with clear wings. As seen in images on the studio's website, the artist has worked with the shape before. Other recent examples of his work are on view in a group show in the Lewis Kay Gallery, the clean, inviting exhibition space that takes up part of Antol's studio building on the northern fringe of the Short North.

But this fresh piece will be saved for the event he's co-hosting with local charity group FUND Razors during Gallery Hop, a benefit for 15-month-old Sophia Hope Thomas and 25-year-old Mary Schultz, who are both battling cancer.

Antol will invite the public into his studio space for glass art demonstrations, as he has since he opened in February, and along with live music and food, he'll offer works of art in a raffle and silent auction.

Since Antol graduated from CCAD three years ago, he's quickly built up a national market for his colorful glass works, which he often enhances with hand-wrought metal bases.

"I was working out of Glass Axis but I'd pretty much exhausted what I could do with their studio, which left me almost nomadic," he explained. Antol found himself traveling to glass studios around the east coast and Midwest, but the size of his work required a crew of assistants, and the cost of bringing them along left him operating at a deficit.

Antol explained that as demand for his work increased, "My living room became packing and shipping, my bedroom became storage and my son was playing hopscotch around thousands of dollars of work. So I took a good hard look at where I was, sold my house and built this."

With his state-of-the-art glass studio, Antol hopes to engage the general public in the start-to-finish process of creating work in a medium that's still relatively new to fine art, to create more awareness of glass as art and a greater comfort level with art in general. But his ambition doesn't stop there.

"I have a sincere interest in changing people's lives," Antol said. "I want art to serve greater purposes, so helping two families that are struggling with cancer is just wonderful. I know that no matter who ends up with the artwork, even if they don't like it, walk it outside and shatter it on the floor, [the money raised with] that piece is going to directly change someone's life. That's an incredible guarantee, and so personally rewarding."

Hope: 2009 End of Summer Holiday Benefit

When: 6 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 5

Where: Jason Antol Studios, South Campus