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INTERVIEW: Artist Henry Richardson’s Sculpted Glass Orbs Make Hamptons Traffic More Bearable

Sydney A. Braat

"From a design perspective this process--which I invented--is a significant breakthrough," Richardson told us. (Courtesy Photo)

Hamptons traffic could be the worst thing about the summer months, but it doesn't have to be anymore. Artist Henry Richardson is hoping to bring light to the slow crawl from the East End with his sculpted glass orbs on 27A near Duck Walk Vineyards.

We spoke with Richardson to learn about his process:

Where did you get the inspiration for the glass orbs?

HR: I am inspired by the concepts of hope, healing, unity and light, of fractured pieces of glass bonded together as a metaphor for a better world. The light in this work implies spirituality, which can be transformative. In this current political climate of dissension and division, the orb is a symbol of how individuals in society can create a common bond. The glue I use is stronger than the glass it fuses, which is relevant to me with respect to society. If people see the work and feel a connection to something deeper inside of themselves, then I have successfully communicated these concepts. I share a home in the area with my wife and commute often from NYC. The message of my orbs on Montauk Highway is, 'Hey, there's positive energy and healing all around you, even in a traffic jam!'

I studied art and geology in college. This background in both art and science informed my interest in glass as an artistic medium. I first explored realist paintings, and one my early series of paintings was of men working on steel beams. There was an abstract quality to these works which was very intriguing to me. For this project I had to get certified in steel and concrete inspection. Walking on the beams, I took a lot of photographs and sketches. I started exploring the idea of using concrete with strips of glass embedded in the concrete so the light would come through it. This progressed into a greater understanding of how glass could evolve as a medium.

I am drawn to glass because of its weight, strength, and qualities of light transmission that evoke various moods. Light both bounces off and passes through the surface, and when transmitted through the sculpture, changes it radically depending on the viewer's vantage point. My pieces bring light and energy to outdoor environments, never static, always changing in luminosity and radiance as the days and seasons change.

How long will the glass orbs appear throughout the Hamptons?

HR: The orbs will remain at the Duck Walk Estate and the White Fences Inn through the fall. For those interested, a major piece will be installed in front of the Asheville Art Museum in Asheville, NC in the fall. Entitled Reflections on Unity, it is being placed in conversation with the controversial Vance monument, a granite obelisk which memorializes Zebulon Vance, a Confederate Colonel, Governor, and US Congressman. The museum has taken the bold step of confronting the confederate monument with a quintessentially modern sculpture that speaks of hope and healing.

Can you speak to the creative process and how you made the glass orbs?

HR: The orb is my canvas, a much more complex coloration and construction process than my traditional two-dimensional paintings. The process involves using the same pigments as I used in my oil paintings, with hundreds or thousands of arcs of glass, working in three dimensions in this transparent medium. Most of the orbs are variations on blue (serenity) or magenta (universal harmony and emotional balance). I treat glass as a transparent stone and work with it as most sculptors approach stone or metal, by hand-chiseling the glass, and then fusing the layers into orbs and towers using a high-intensity light welding process. Then I'll further hone the shape with a chisel. Construction takes about a month.

From a design perspective this process--which I invented--is a significant breakthrough. I've taken a medium explored primarily by architects, and not sculptors, for the past 60 years, and expanded its scope into that of a catalyst for the creation of dynamic and meaningful interior and exterior spaces.

My breakthrough monumental work was a six foot diameter glass orb entitled Tikkun, which was featured in the first Miami Biennale. I also designed the 9/11 Memorial in Danbury, CT, a twelve foot glass tower which commemorates all the Connecticut victims. I have also completed many private commissions throughout the US, and enjoy collaborating with private clients on both interior and exterior pieces, large and small.

Richardson's orbs are located on Route 27 near Duck Walk Vineyards (231 Montauk Highway, Water Mill) and near White Fences Inn (371 Montauk Highway, Water Mill).

For more information about Henry Richardson, visit www.henryrichardson.com.

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