The art of glass is often elusive and always luminous.
Elusive because it can break easily, and luminous because of the sheer beauty it creates when it mixes with light.
But even with its fragility, the irresistible incandescence of glass art makes it worth the risk, a fact discovered by Whidbey artist Meredith MacLeod and Lopez Island artist Janis Miltenberger years ago when they were learning the art of glass.
More than 20 years have passed since the two artists met and became fast friends while assisting at the Pilchuck Glass School in Stanwood, the largest educational center in the world for artists working in glass.
Now, having become accomplished glass artists themselves, they present their work together in a show entitled “Feathered Friends” opening at MUSEO on Saturday, Aug. 2.
“We are close friends and have a compatible aesthetic sense,” Miltenberger said.
Miltenberger said she respects MacLeod’s integrity as a designer, her sharp eye for color and balance.
“I am often drawn to what she makes and how she makes it,” she said.
In contrast, she said she looks at her own work as a composite, put together intuitively like a cook who adds bits of various flavors until it tastes right. She said she doesn’t always get it just as she imagined, but it works out better that way.
“I often look back at my work and realize that what it says to me, what it displays is very right and much more truthful, almost naked. This is what I am going for: chapters spread out to read and respond to,” she said.
Miltenberger will show both functional and decorative lamp-worked candle holders, pairs of floral goblets, some sculptural pedestal pieces and some glass wall art.
If there is a theme for the show, she said it is her and MacLeod’s friendship and their mutual love of nature.
“We are both drawn to the vocabulary of nature and the meaning that the images bring up in the viewer,” Miltenberger said.
Indeed, the colors and shapes of nature play into both these artists’ work.
Miltenberger is guided by a bit of whimsy, with the exquisitely delicate orange and green lily-stemmed goblets that one could imagine gracing the tables of the most fashionable partygoers of the 1920s, while still remaining modern.
Her wall pieces, which take decidedly thoughtful titles such as “Origin,” “Purpose” and “Reason,” combine the colors and shapes found on the forest floor with the theatricality of myth.
Like her fellow artist, MacLeod’s newest work reflects that same love of the natural world.
Employing her passion for printmaking and the skills of a glass tile maker, she has created a series of decorative works that include intricately designed wallpaper-like monoprints, mixed-media prints and glass panels.
By silk screening or stamping high- fire enamels onto the surface of glass, shadows are cast onto a painting underneath, creating a space that is designed to draw in the viewer. She also layers the color and shapes from carved rubber stamps, simulating a textile or wallpaper monoprint.
MacLeod’s work features patterns of birds, plant-life and geometric designs that, like Miltenberger’s work, manage to combine the feel of retro design with her own modern sensibilities.
Looking at the work, it makes sense that MacLeod said she likes to look at bird books from the 1950s, old textile pattern books and fabrics from the ’30s.
“My goal is to evoke an interest in something old that can recast itself as new,” she said.
Gallery owner Sandra Jarvis said MacLeod is a favorite of gallery clients, and has frequent shows at MUSEO.
“With her superb printmaking skills and unerring eye for color, she produces works that can be easily integrated into collections,” Jarvis said.
Miltenberger is another nationally recognized glass artist (apart from the horde who also happen to live on this island) that Jarvis has long admired and is excited to stage at MUSEO for the first time.
“Clients like to see new names and new techniques in glass,” Jarvis said.
“Janis’ work is sure to delight, with her beautifully crafted flame-worked pieces.”
Both artists are looking forward to the show at the beloved gallery; MacLeod for its familiarity and Miltenberger for the excellent surprises that such intimate galleries reveal.
“Imagine being a visitor to the island and running across such a neat gallery,” Miltenberger said.
“I love being a part of MUSEO,” MacLeod added.
“It gives me a sense of community, and I am proud to be considered a working artist among the great talent we have on this island.”
The show runs 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 2 through Sunday, Aug. 31. An artists’ reception is from 5 to 8 p.m. Saturday.
MUSEO is at 215 First St. in Langley. Call 221-7737 for info.