Andrew O. Hughes on DeWain Valentine

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.”