GLASS LIVES INTERVIEW:
MICHAEL ROGERS

Michael Rogers in conversation with North Lands Creative Director Karen Phillips. Michael shares an insight into his creative practice and life as a professional Artist and Educator.

PROJECT ACTIVITY - glass nexus forum 

PARTNER - north lands creative 

YEAR - 2018

1. Was there a pivotal moment when you decided to be an artist?

Perhaps there was more a series of pivotal moments throughout life that have informed me, indicating that being an artist was not so much a choice, but rather more a recognition of self-determination. I have always wanted to see the world and art seemed a international language that would help achieve that interest.

2. How would you describe your subject matter or the content of your work?

My subject matter is never set but rather a moving target. I focus on life as it is changing. In short, I try to capture that which is fleeting, the ephemeral. Content is ever shifting depending on what I’m experiencing, wanting to express, and the work at hand. I’m a proponent of the poetic, the lyrical, and seek that out. Narrative and metaphor are important. Making art is a way to think in ways I might not otherwise and to assimilate my experience.

The Red Reveal, Michael Rogers

3. What mediums do you work with? You employ a vast array of materials, how do you go about choosing them?

I’m interested in how a material can effect the content of a work and the feeling it relays to the viewer. I used to think I started out with an idea but now it’s more beginning with an intention or an intuition. Materials and processes speak and I listen, in as much as in trying to choose materials and processes appropriate to express my intention. I have made objects in blown or cast glass, then again in cast bronze, cast iron, raku-fired ceramics and wood, all to inform myself about the nature of materials and processes. Lately I’ve been focusing on what I refer to as performative sketches using objects as tools in relation to my body and the environment in order to express aspects of evoking invisible forces, transformation, emotions and states of mind. In this context choosing a site or environment and choreographing movement becomes important. The idea of material and process expands involving physicality, time, and movement. I’m interested in the elements of earth, nature, water, fire, light, darkness, spirit. Water has been an intuitive choice I return to often.

4. Has there been a shift or change in your life or work that has led to what you’re making now? Do you see your work as autobiographical at all?

Yes, with the passing of time comes revelations, the knowledge gained by experience. At certain times one must reinvent themselves and perhaps this is such a time. I suppose in some ways all work is autobiographical, yet I try to touch upon universal themes relative to the human condition.

5. You seem to work on a diverse range of projects, how do you choose what to get involved in?

I prefer to start from the uncertain state of “not knowing” in hopes that I will learn something about what I am attracted to. I follow my interests and intriguing opportunities present themselves. I’ve been fortunate to be associated with various universities over time. Universities are the crossroads of many disciplines and are full of curious people doing fascinating things. Certainly, North Lands Creative is such a place. I want to work with interesting people and delight in the creativity of discovery.

6. What does having a physical space to make art in mean for your process, and how do you make your space work for you?

The idea of a studio is just that, an idea. I have always loved creating studios, it is a form of preparation. In order for something to exist there first needs to be the space for it. My idea of what a studio can be has expanded and changed over time. I’ve always tried to create versatile spaces where anything can happen. The studio is a sacred place, it can have four walls or it can be a designated place such as a waterfall, a forest or the sea.

 

Water Ritual Michael Rogers

Riga Diary, Michael Rogers

7. What are you currently reading, listening to or looking at to fuel your work?

I like poetry and am currently reading Epiphanies and other works by the Latvian poet Imants Ziedonis. I like poetry by W.S. Merwin as well. In the past Pablo Neruda and Jorge Juis Borges have been an influence. I’m trying to learn Latvian, it seems to me a very lyrical and poetic language so that is mostly what I am listening to. I like contemporary dance and performance too, Pina Bausch and Sylvie Guillem come to mind and performance artists/dancers Eiko and Koma. I’m interested in rituals that sustain us, those that have developed over time by human beings in response to changes in seasons, those that have their origin in agrarian culture.

8. Working in education, what does it mean to you?

I came from a small midwestern town in the United States. Education was my ticket to the larger world. I’m interested in the community education provides and the creation of an atmosphere conducive to expansive thinking. It has always been such a privilege to be involved both as a student and a teacher. I like to think of all involved in education as participants.

9. How do you benefit from your time teaching students?

One never learns their subject matter more than when one teaches. Students are amazing, they bring so much to the exchange and they challenge you in productive ways. You learn a lot about people and also about yourself. To gain deep knowledge it is important to teach. To receive energy one must expend it. To quote the poet John Giorno, “You got to burn to shine”. I have also seen teaching as a responsibility. I have had such amazing teachers in my life and so also think it important to mentor others who want to learn.

10. What are the similarities of students from the US and Latvia and what are the positive differences?

I have taught in several countries, my first teaching position was in Japan and that lasted eleven years, then primarily in the United States with shorter teaching experiences in Latvia and lately China. I think students everywhere have such energy and willingness to learn, there are individual needs to be addressed as well as group dynamics. Culture makes such a huge difference as it effects not only individual and group dynamics but also the nature of the educational institutions and systems. In Japan, China and Latvia I taught mostly students who were of that nationality and culture. In the United States it has been a more diverse and multicultural experience and of course the dynamic changes from one country to the next. I’m very interested in educational projects with the potential for cultural exchange, as a way for people to understand each other better. Art as an international language has the potential to bring us together in remarkable ways.

Dr Michael Rogers & Dr Inguna Adere

11. You were pivotal in introducing the UK and Latvian partners. Why do you think it is important to have projects like ISGNE? How do you think the ISGNE is different from other projects?

Congratulations to North Lands Creative for its uniquely dynamic and visionary programing! The idea of partnering European countries to create a sustainable glass network is brilliant and can well serve as an exciting model for future projects. The spin off events, projects and exchanges created from ISGNE is phenomenal. I hope people will just google ISGNE, scroll down and see all the amazing things that are going on! I know of no other project like it. It will create lasting working relationships and cultural exchanges that will enrich people and bind them together in friendship for years to come.

12. How would you define contemporary glass in Latvia/ and or the US at the moment?

To answer this question would require a thesis but I will try to touch upon it. The situation in the United States for contemporary glass has changed. There is still more of a market for glass art in the USA than elsewhere but it is not what it was previously. Meanwhile tuition to enter university glass programs has skyrocketed. Knowledge of glass as a material and processes of manipulating it have developed to a very high level. It has seemed to me for quite some time now that glass is being assimilated into the larger fields of contemporary art and design. Craft, while important is no longer a driving factor in the field but rather an aspect of a more diverse and comprehensive approach. I have recently gone through every issue of The Corning Museum’s New Glass Review at the Rakow Library. One can see the progression over time away from the autonomous object to predominantly installations, site specific, and performance-based works. Collaborations and interactions with other disciplines are becoming more common and sole authorship is beginning to be questioned. It is an exceptionally exciting time for the state of the art involving glass. I find what is going on in the Baltic region of Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia as a sort of new frontier. While this region is drawing upon rich histories and unique cultures it has embraced the contemporary arts. It is an area of the world not so many understand, know well, or fully appreciate what is going on. This situation will change in the near future. There is the feeling that in the Baltic region that culture is greatly appreciated, that the arts are woven into their national identities. 

13. What are your favorite European artists, studios and/ or places?

I am grateful for the International Blown Glass Symposiums in Lviv, Ukraine, the symposium in 2016 was my first introduction to what was going on in Europe and the Liviv symposiums thereafter have cemented my friendships with artists from the region and beyond. From that experience had developed creative projects with colleagues in Latvia, Estonia and Finland in particular. Inguna Audere, Mare Saare, and Kazushi Nakada have been exceptional friends and artist/educators who I greatly respect and admire. 

 

The VICARTE Science and Glass Program at the New University of Lisbon in Portugal with professors Richard Meitner and Robert Wiley along with previous director António Pires de Matos and current director Márcia Vilarigues have also offered unique opportunities for collaborative exchanges. I’ve felt equally privileged to be associated with North Lands Creative, it’s visionary director Karen Phillips, the brilliant staff, president Ian Giles, and studio manager Michael Bullen. Bullseye Projects had also led to singularly amazing opportunities to exhibit in Scotland, the “Byre Project” being a prime example. I have felt honored to be invited to the last International Glass Symposium in Novy Bor in the Czech Republic. The Glass Art Society Conferences in the past in Amsterdam and recently in Venice and Murano Italy have also been exceptional introductions to what is happening in Europe. The efforts of these non-profit arts organizations have had far ranging influence.

14. How important is it to you to be making work internationally and with other European organizations and artists?

Working internationally is at the core of my practice. I am especially drawn to Northern Europe. It is in my dna. My grandmother immigrated to the USA from Sweden. The first paintings I saw as a child was of her watercolors of landscapes. Some deep-seated curiosity about Europe developed early on. When you are born and raised in the USA you become curious where your people came from and why.  Mostly I appreciate European culture and am curious, there is so much to learn and appreciate.

Site-specific performance at North Lands Creative Glass Nexus Forum 2018, Dr Inguna Adere & Dr Michael Rogers

Site-specific performance at North Lands Creative Glass Nexus Forum 2018, Dr Inguna Adere & Dr Michael Rogers

Site-specific performance at North Lands Creative Glass Nexus Forum 2018, Dr Inguna Adere & Dr Michael Rogers

15. You communicate with artists and studios in other European countries. What is the prevailing mood currently?

This is from my limited experience but the pandemic has changed much. However, artists are resilient and used to finding solutions and adapting to changes in circumstances. New modalities for education, communication, creating, and exhibiting are being formulated that will be progressive and useful long after the pandemic ends. The mood is cautiously optimistic, life is going on and people are adapting.

16. The contemporary glass world is built on mobility: artists and their projects are not subjected to national borders, they travel and work in different countries, and their works are exhibited globally. How do you think the international glass scene will change after this crisis?

I appreciate the statement before the question, the contemporary glass world is built on mobility. Thanks to technology and the desire to continue and communicate, artists, universities, and museums are developing innovative ways to keep in touch and make things happen. Certainly, exhibitions have been postponed and delayed yet still innovations are invented to make these events happen. I predict that after the crisis that the international glass scene will be even more cherished and appreciated and so continue to thrive. Crisis has a way of making relationships stronger and lessons learned during times of hardship will inform the future.



Anna Varnase, project coordinato at Glass Point Latvia with Dr Michael Rogers & Dr Inguna Adere during ISGNE Champion visit to Ukraine

Michael Rogers, A Dance in Lviv

Michael Rogers, Listening, Seeing

ARTIST BIO
Michael Rogers

Michael Rogers has just retired as professor in the Studio Arts Glass Program at the Rochester Institute of Technology in upstate New York where he finished his sixteenth academic year. Previously he returned to the United States after spending eleven years in Japan where he was head of Aichi University of Education’s Glass Program. 

 

Recent exhibitions and projects include, the “Impetus Project” a course taught with Professor Dr. Inguna Audere at The Latvian Art Academy combining sculpture, painting and performance and continuing with this course at Vilnius Academy of Arts, Vilnius, Lithuania.

 

Lectured, Estonian Academy of Arts, Tallinn, Estonia. All in 2018.

 “IGlass2017” at Levant Gallery in Shanghai, China. “Permeable Structures” at Bullseye Projects, Latheronwheel, Scotland. “Spillforth” at Exhibit A Gallery in Corning, New York. “Collision & Fission Exhibit of Contemporary Glass”, Tianyuan International Glass Art Festival, Nanjing Province China. All in 2017

 

Michael will be joining the faculty of The Art Academy of Latvia in January of 2019. When not teaching or traveling Michael works in his studio in the countryside of upstate New York.

more interviews...