Our first-ever From the Archives post, which looked back at William Sklaroff’s mid-century desk accessory set Radius One, dates back to November 10, 2009 — the very first day of Sight Unseen’s existence. But after that, the column pretty much petered out, partly because we didn’t have the time to research it properly and partly because, with millions upon millions of wonderful old things to potentially highlight, how could we ever choose just one? We’ve officially solved that problem today with the launch of our new and improved From the Archives series, in which designers and artists do all the work for us: Each edition will invite a talent we admire to give a history lesson on someone from the past who’s had a strong impact on their work. Our first subject is Brooklyn glassmaker Andrew O. Hughes, speaking about the California Light and Space sculptor DeWain Valentine (no holiday-themed pun intended).
After studying glass at RISD, Hughes moved to New York in 2001 and honed his skills by working for others on sculptures, antique restoration projects, and a bizarre art piece that involved him knitting hog intestines for six months. It wasn’t until 2006 that a fateful and lucrative job playing a glassblower in a Michelob commercial allowed him to set up his own studio — through which he’s created pieces for himself, for Calvin Klein Home, and for commissions from the likes of Stephen Burks and Roman + Williams — and eventually end up showing at Sight Unseen OFFSITE last May. That was where we first heard Hughes speak about his love for Valentine, who had partially inspired the Prism Candlesticks he was debuting at our show.
Here, Hughes tells us all the details of his love affair (no pun intended pt. II) with the sculptor’s work, starting with how he first discovered it: “I was visiting a rep and on his coffee table was an invite to a DeWain Valentine show in Paris with a peach-colored Diamond Column on it,” Hughes says. “I had been working on triangular cast-glass candlesticks at the time, and when I saw the sculpture it felt like the realization of my vision. Though I was a big fan of other California Light and Space Artists, like James Turrell and John McCraken, I had never heard of Valentine and was enthralled. As it turns out, his work has had a bit of a recent revival, and oddly enough, after much innovation in polyurethane, he’s moved on to glass as his main medium of expression. Full-circle serendipity.”
In the realm of magazine-making, photographer Eva Michon and creative director Colin Bergh could be considered populist heroes. Whenever they begin an issue of their four-year-old side project Bad Day Magazine, they make a wish list full of dozens of potential subjects they happen to be interested in at the moment — Sofia Coppola, Glenn O'Brien, Ariel Pink — and then, except for one fateful attempt to woo Nicki Minaj, they actually manage to go out and persuade those disparate personalities to appear together among their monochromatic pages. The pair have gotten so good at the curatorial hunt that when Michon, who serves as editor, agreed to let us reprint an article from the recently released Bad Day Issue #11, we were spoiled for choice: There were interviews with Sight Unseen favorites Martino Gamper and Tauba Auerbach, both of whom we're planning to feature on our own in the near future, plus stories on Mike Mills, David Shrigley, Tomi Ungerer, and David Shearer. But ultimately we settled on the curious multidisciplinary dialogue between the actor Jason Schwartzman and the New York artist Andrew Kuo, who meander between topics like music, color-mixing, hangovers, and what it would be like if they looked like Jesus.
If you're anything like us, the idea of receiving a big, overpriced bouquet on Valentine's Day seems not only a little bit schmaltzy, but also a little bit of a waste, with all the amazing design objects out there your significant other could be spending his or her money on. Isn't it more romantic or them to be so thoughtful as to gift you something you might really, actually want? With that in mind — and with a little nudge from our friends at Aether, whose strikingly minimalist Cone speaker we had on our own wish lists long before they reached out to us — we present the first ever Sight Unseen Valentine's Day gift guide, featuring 11 items guaranteed to melt the heart of any design-lover in your life.
“Being a photographer and being an artist working with materials like resin, plants, and glass — those two worlds should not really mix,” says Heidi Norton. “You have the camera and you have film and you’re trying to keep things clean and archival, and then you have dirt and glass shards everywhere.” Such contradictions are at the core of Norton’s work, from the immaculate glow of her photography to the dirt-under-your-fingernails feel of her sculptural pieces, which typically feature houseplants in some form or another. Norton started incorporating plants into her photographic practice several years ago in a series of still lifes. It was partly a way to bring the natural world she grew up with, in rural West Virginia, into the urban setting of Chicago, where she’s lived since getting her MFA at the School of the Art Institute in 2002. Those photos eventually inspired her to make plant-based sculptures that explore how we create, cultivate, and change ourselves. Therein lies the central paradox: “The idea of preservation, and trying to save the plant while at the same time killing it through that preservation, became really interesting to me,” she says. “All of the mediums I use deal with that idea in different ways.” Even her studio itself, shot by Debbie Carlos for part two of Sight Unseen's series on Chicago artists, is part of the process.