Page 5 - Dante Marioni Intersections 2021
P. 5

Glassblowing is taught by demonstration, and perfected by endless repetition.1
Since his emergence in the 1980s, Dante Marioni has become known worldwide for a body of work that combines an extraordinary command of complex historical techniques with a contemporary sensibility. His elongated classical forms on a grand scale, created in striking combinations of saturated, opaque color, are particularly well known. Since early in his career, however, he has also investigated the creative possibilities presented by one of the most familiar and important qualities of glass: transparency.
The “Maze” and “Print” series featured in this exhibition showcase Marioni’s focus on the experience of looking not just at but through one of his vessels. Full appreciation of these pieces through photographs is difficult; pictures reveal the graceful shape and proportions of each piece, but the continually changing patterns created by the visual intersection of each work’s front and back require multiple points of view in order to be really seen. This kinetic experience is as mesmerizing as it is pleasurable.
Marioni started making the “Maze” works in 2018. Overall, they feature dynamic arrangements of bold, graphic parallel lines. Often, a strong horizontal element anchors a piece’s composition. The “Print” series began a little more than a year ago, during his isolation in the early days of the pandemic, working intensively in his studio. The delicate, complicated whorled lines characteristic of this series were originally inspired by the patterns of a thumb print. Curling swaths of color create complex crosshatching, suggesting a second meaning— that, as in a print, shadow and depth are created with the deft use of line alone.
Born in the San Francisco Bay Area, Marioni relocated to Seattle with his family when he was 15, and has lived there ever since. His educational experience more resembled the traditional apprenticeship of a Venetian glassblower than the usual American model, in which a student’s first experience with the medium is in college or art school. As the son of glass artist Paul Marioni, Dante spent many summers at Pilchuck Glass School while growing up. Fascinated by blowing glass, he started putting in the long hours required to perfect his skills while still in high school. He began working full time as soon as he graduated in 1982— first, at the Glass Eye, a shop in Seattle, and then with friends in their own studio. He credits the glass artists Benjamin Moore, Richard Marquis and especially Lino Tagliapietra as his most important mentors and teachers, in relationships that have spanned decades with ongoing dialogue and friendship.
In the ‘90s, Tagliapietra encouraged Marioni to experiment with reticello, an extremely challenging technique that first emerged in Venice in the sixteenth century. To make a reticello piece, cane— hand-pulled rods of clear and colored glass— is used to make two blown forms. Patterned with delicate swirled threads of color, these are joined together, surface to surface. Between the two layers, tiny bubbles of air are trapped in the spaces between the grid of crossing lines. The pattern must be perfect, and even highly-skilled blowers do not always succeed. Marioni started a series of stylized oversized acorns with this technique, attracted to their unique (and slightly comical) shape. Continuing to experiment with a rich variety of patterns, he moved on to exploring other natural forms such as gourds and leaves.
 1 Tina Oldknow, Dante Marioni: Blown Glass, Hudson Hills (2000)
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