Sandy swirnoff / Selected Artwork / Biography / Artist Statement / Past Exhibitions
Sany Swirnoff - Artist Statement
Looking back over my creative life, I can see certain threads that kept reappearing and eventually meshed to form the essence of my work. When I was a child, my mother encouraged me to observe patterns, colors, and interesting shapes. I also began to develop an appreciation for art of the past, especially antiques, which my mother collected for many years.
As an adult, I went into the antique jewelry business and became very familiar with such Art Nouveau glass artists as Daum, Tiffany, Gallé, and Lalique, to name a few. At the same time, I moved into a beautiful arts-and-crafts home in Minneapolis built by Purcell & Elmslie, two architects from Chicago who, like Frank Lloyd Wright, were students of Louis Sullivan. So, my world was surrounded by art of the early 20th century. My home was filled with mellow gold, glass lamp shades, stained glass, and earth colors of green, gold, and rust. It's as if I absorbed that atmosphere into my cells. It became a big part of my aesthetic.
In 1958, my husband and I moved to Portland, Oregon. In Portland, being the spiritual and creative place it is, I discovered a love for creating fiber jewelry. I took many classes and workshops and realized that I loved holding the work in my hands, intimately, closely, experiencing it as an extension of myself. I liked bringing pieces of metal, beads, glass, and nature together in a pattern, making order out of chaos, watching the designs freely unfold as they will.
As I was developing my craft, a very serendipitous event happened. I was browsing in a local antique store and happened upon a basket filled with shards of early 20th -century Art Nouveau glass. The edges had been smoothed, and the pieces were in excellent shape. The owner told me this story: an antiques store outside of Portland had a beautiful display of Art Nouveau objects in its front window, including Tiffany lamp shades and Daum and Gallé vases and bowls. A truck driver lost control of his vehicle and smashed into a window, destroying them all. An art glass appraiser found them, authenticated them, had the edges smoothed, and prepared them for resale. When I learned this, I bought as many as I could.
The rest is history. I began making jewelry with these pieces, including a work that is now in the permanent collection of the Museum of Arts and Design in New York City. As I reached my 75th year, I made a commitment to myself to complete a collection of these shards and return these lovely pieces of glass to the world, so they can be seen and appreciated once again.