"The Glass Experience"
The title “Glass Experience” conjures images of a relative’s cabinet of kitschy crystal. But this 13,000-square-foot exhibit makes the 4,000-year-old invention of man-made glass, a science we often take for granted, much more relevant than an off-beat aunt’s collection of paperweights.
Beginning with a room of historical objects and explanatory videos, the exhibit’s contents are spread out in tacky glass cases ironically layered with printed material that resembles molten glass. Nevertheless, the bright displays wow with a millennia of the material—beautiful mercury-aided Czech glass; English lead glass that cheaply imitated crystal; air-filtering fiberglass; and prisms, an integral component in binoculars and fiber optics. Subtly, glass revolutionized the way we live—from storing our food, to buying affordable boats and fast cable, to putting a man on the moon in a glass-threaded space suit.
After these elucidating morsels, the exhibition takes a downward turn: Glass work by artists such as Dale Chihuly hog a vast amount of the display space while only a few of the pieces (including a Louis Comfort Tiffany awe-worthy window) offer interesting scientific tidbits or exceptional art value. Lesson to be learned: Leave the art to art museums and their curators.
Fortunately, the best part of the exhibit comes toward the end: Live demos feature two glass makers wielding 2,300-degree Fahrenheit molten-globs. Miked, one of the artisans describes the intricacies of creating a vase or a sculpture while the other—a master with 16 years of experience—tinkers with ovens and shooting flames. Eyed close-up by a raptly attentive audience, these demos make the show almost worth the overpriced $23 ticket.