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The Paperweight Circus has once again dropped anchor down at Yasgur’s farm, just outside of town. And with it, the one and only LH Selman Paperweight Auction 83 is back again under the Big Top!
Put aside last month’s dishes and other cares and woes and indulge in your passions and desires, especially those that center around – (yes, “around” is accepted in informal writing) – the fine art glass paperweights!
So, hold off on your White Lotus Netflix binging for the next little while, and ignore the Duncan Hines special coconut layer cake in the oven. Tell the grandkids you are sorry, and you’ll try hard to make their next graduations… You have to focus!
This is the adult fine art glass world calling…And yes, I know by now that you all know to ask for more photographs and to call with any questions regarding the auction, so I won’t even bother mentioning it here!
Ladies and Gentleman, and …well, frankly, anyone with a working computer or pretty much any stray soul who happens to fall into the doorway with some coin of the realm, we welcome you back to the joyous fray, to the, dare we say, internecine conflagration of mutually affectionate competition between you and all your old friends who for better and worse, share your eye for beauty? It is time again to man and woman the parapets, sort of as in days of yore, and fight for the Crown, or at least the Crown weights!
And Remember as You Wade into the Contest—
WHATEVER IT TAKES
is not just a banner for football locker rooms!
The more the world spins and the more historic events that occur, (including last month’s contested revelation that the planet’s molten inner core has halted its spin relative to the mantle) the more we need inspiration, a.k.a. Art Glass Paperweights, to help our souls flourish in this challenging but still very aspirational environment—
As I was just perusing the array of Auction 83 paperweights in our main cabinet, I was of course aware of the dramatic differences in color, subject matter and design.
But more than any distinctions to be drawn, I was struck by the similarities of these sparkling jewels in their sense of purpose. Each weight is a wave of acknowledgment, a handshake, a tip of the hat, an affectionate glance, a full embrace – to life itself. And when you buy a paperweight (de notre part) you are doing no less than validating humanity itself!!
Get Your Programs and Grab Your Seats…
A TOUCH OF ART NOUVEAU IN HARDSCRABBLE NEW ENGLAND
Torn from the pages of history, (in this case specifically page 124 of Glass Paperweights of the New York Historical Society) this weight is defined by Paul Hollister as an “…extremely rare lamp work performance …on a par with similar French work.” And if that is not enough, this is that same exact weight that Paul wrote about, from the NYHS collection. Great referral for a weight applying for a new position in your own paperweight organization!
YOU THINK “PLANET OF THE APES” CAME FROM NOWHERE?
Speaking of history, this weight with a striking central cane of a monkey/ ape might just have been owned (okay, probably not) by Sir Charles Darwin. He had just published On the Origin of Species in 1859. We take these designs in stride, but actually, larger monkeys and the great apes were still fairly exotic creatures to the average European, and this rather vibrant design centered on one such, must have intrigued many viewers.
The first gorilla in an English zoo was in 1930. The Web says that the first gorilla born in captivity was at the Columbus Zoo in 1956. But don’t worry, no foreign government will try to repatriate this artwork from your collection. We’ll send you the documents as soon as they’re dry.
HOW SHARP WERE THOSE VICTORIAN KNITTING NEEDLES?
A classic weight. This particular example bears an unrivaled intensity for clarity and crispness. It looks as though each cane were rendered by the use of a microscope and hypodermic needle! Ask for close-ups but only if you have a 4K screen at home…!
ARTWORK THAT HAS YOUR BACK!
This royal-looking French weight looks as though it had an actual function; it is somewhat muscular and almost utilitarian. There is an intensity to it. In this case it may have reminded people of earlier, hollow-blown glass balls that were employed to ward off evil spirits— again, in days of yore (although we could probably all use one over our televisions and computers). There’s something special about artworks that are beautiful but also look as though they have supernatural powers.
IF YOU REMEMBER WOODSTOCK, YOU WEREN’T THERE!
Some of the butterflies in the antique Baccarat weights have amusing eyes, but this one is different. Here the eyes look intelligent and almost haunted. That makes this an arresting specimen to begin with, but in addition, it is about the largest and most powerful butterfly I’ve seen. On top of that – its luminous, psychedelic wings are perfect to the eye. If you ever wanted a butterfly that could qualify for a Super Bowl flyover, tackle and retrieve unidentified balloons, and baby sit the triplet dragons from the Game of Thrones…you have found it! You can even offset the hammer price by marketing its likeness to the Air Force for decals on the B-1, an idea approved by Joni Mitchell: “And I dreamed I saw the jet bombers riding shotgun in the sky and they were turning into butterflies above our nation.” What a nice idea.
KEEP A.I. OUT OF THE WORLD OF PAPERWEIGHTS!
Very occasionally, antique trefoils are successful to the point where they look almost as precise as if they had been designed using French curves and protractors, but not often. The whole idea of handcrafted glass is that it is, in fact, handcrafted. The joy is found in pursuit of the absolutely most successful artistic realization possible—by the use of the human heart, eye and hand facing off with the most difficult art medium ever devised. This trefoil represents just such a success. Look closely…no you can’t use a caliper!
MORE ROSES THAN THE MOB FUNERAL FOR TONY SOPRANO
Before we take our leave of the venerable antiques section, I would be remiss not to mention a phenomenal offering of a classic Clichy with a wonderful design blessed with a multitude of roses. This weight belongs at the Kentucky Derby, a.k.a. “The Run for the Roses.” Shakespeare would be envious. It just doesn’t get any better than this. And as if it weren’t enough, this beauty comes directly from the garden of Art and Joyce Elder. What is better than a jewel shared by the Elder of the (paperweight) tribe? Did you wince? No Disrespect.
I’m being threatened with a loitering charge here in the gallery because I am immobilized by the immense selection of top-shelf contemporary weights. It’s never easy to choose what to write about in either category, but I could spend the entire blog on one or two pages! So, since the auction has already started and you’re always busy, I’ll try to be brief.
NO WONDER SO MUCH ECCLESIASTICAL ART IS IN STAINED GLASS
I have waxed poetic in earlier columns about Paul’s weights; those that embody the entire breadth of the natural environment, those that spread a sense of the Spirit and the Divine, and those earlier works of studious discovery of individual plants and flowers. And of course, they all overlap. But this weight, Lot 82, features his slightly less frequent poetry relating to water, the sine qua non, of the elements of nature. Okay earth, air and fire are pretty cool to have around too. The aqua color of the surface of the water in this work is sublimely calming like no other single color I’ve seen in a weight. And the pads are lively to where they seem wet and alive in the water, dressed in their little flowery friends. This is an aesthetically and psychically healing artwork. Take a breath.
JUST DO NOT OFFER TO ARM WRESTLE THIS MAN!
With a half dozen of Dave’s weights, it’s a tough decision what example to choose for critically impartial analysis. (Thanks again for dinner and for the Phillies’ baseball you caught in the stands and turned and gave to me last season at Wrigley Field … oh, also and for my ticket, Dave!)
Anyway, green and yellow lie next to one another on the color wheel but in this masterful exercise, they act more as opposites on the chart as the brilliant lemons pop up and out of the rich emerald translucence like mortar rounds, oops, I mean holiday fireworks! And the fluted rib cage gives dynamic lift to the entire design. This is one very alive artwork.
“IF THE HOUSE IS ROCKIN’, DON’T BOTHER KNOCKIN’…”
The talented and indefatigable Rick Ayotte is well represented here with numerous brilliant works, but you can’t look at Lot 113 without breaking into a smile. The weight has a great design and is nicely balanced in the facets. Our no-nonsense parent is perched with authority while Junior peeks out–perfectly framed in the window, waiting for lunch. Only 5 in the edition!
ARTISTS PROOF EDITION #1 OF #1 FROM THE ARTIST’S COLLECTION.
Marty has done a spectacular job capturing the quiet masterwork that is lot 121. Merritt and Sautner have endlessly pushed the boundaries of small-scale art glass sculpture and its interface with traditional paperweight forms. The miracle is how Sautner, who died more than 20 years ago, could have produced as many works of genius as he did! Call us for a recap of the diatreta process, which dates back in part, to the Romans and their work with their finest vases. This reverse and inverse art technique relates to the traditional glass sculpting in the same way that Ginger Rogers related to the great Fred Astaire. She matched him move by move and step by step, only backwards and in high heels. That’s diatreta!
THIS WEIGHT IS GETTING A LOT OF BUZZ!
Sorry, I won’t do that again…
The elegantly scalloped framing provided by the battuto technique caresses your eye and draws it inward. The faceting provides a genuinely shimmering environment for this exquisitely designed and colored composition. And, if you buy this, you won’t have to stammer and say to guests, “Well, no, I don’t have a single battuto-cut weight anywhere in my collection.” Come on, don’t do that to yourself. Step up and live a little!
BLACK IS THE NEW BLACK
I was all set to comment on lot 141, Ken’s knockout arrangement of an intricate bouquet tucked inside a chandelier when I couldn’t take my eyes off the gorgeous and lively design of lot 142, cushioned on a bed of black velvet. If Astaire and Rogers were holding a paperweight as fashionable as themselves, it would be this.
HEY! VALENTINE’S DAY COMES AGAIN NEXT YEAR, TOO !
These three roses and their buds look as though they were woven from a fine pink silk. Seriously romantic tableau in this weight. Don’t even think you can pick this up later. Now is your chance. This is destiny calling, whether you want to cement a flourishing relationship or celebrate one’s long success, this is a priceless and timeless symbol of love.
THE ONLY PLACE YOU WOULD WANT TO SEE THEM…
Clinton creates wonderful arrangements that have sophisticated design, but which really appeal to the child inside of us all. These inchworms look as happy as Snow White’s dwarfs marching on their way to work in the morning, except for Grumpy, of course. And there are plenty of happy and healthy-looking apples for the little cretins to tear through by quitting time.
NATURE WHIPPED INTO SHAPE!
You realize when you meet him, that Michael is not rigid in person. His untucked Bugs Bunny Alien Invader tee shirt testifies to that. But when it comes to his work, he strives for the intersection of harmonious beauty and hand-crafted technical precision. Every weight he makes bears witness to this, but I do especially love the lot in question…
THE LITTLE ONE YOU ALL MISSED!
Is this the eye of a dragon or a worm hole to the far side of the universe? Why can’t it be both? The depths of delight this small treasure has to offer can really only be experienced with the human eye, so please get to the gallery if you possibly can!
Throwing In the Towel!!
I apologize here for not having room to cover all the weights that truly deserve praise and also deserve to have something true and entertaining written about them—the four perfect designs from Melissa come to mind, Cathy Richardson’s gems, D’Onofrio’s high-energy narratives, the Banford’s delicate baskets, Damon’s dazzling close-packs and on and on and on. Maybe I’ll try for a blog covering 50-60 lots, next time…that is if I don’t go on a hunger strike waiting to feel the love…
THANK YOU ALL FOR THE INVALUABLE GIFT OF YOUR TIME!