Luke Jerram Sculptures Commissioned by The Corning Museum of Glass

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Two new works from Luke Jerram’s “Glass Microbiology” series have entered the collection of The Corning Museum of Glass. Last week, the Museum unveiled its annual Rakow Commission: Smallpox Virus and HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus). The two sculptures of the deadly viruses are rendered in delicate flameworked and blown glass by the acclaimed British artist.

Smallpox Virus and HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus)

The Smallpox Virus celebrates the 30th anniversary of the global eradication of this major disease

Two new works from Luke Jerram’s “Glass Microbiology” series have entered the collection of The Corning Museum of Glass. Last week, the Museum unveiled its annual Rakow Commission: Smallpox Virus and HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus). The two sculptures of the deadly viruses are rendered in delicate flameworked and blown glass by the acclaimed British artist.

Jerram creates sculptures, installations, soundscapes, and public art projects that investigate how the mind works, particularly in connection with perception and reality. His practice is multidisciplinary, and he uses whatever materials are most appropriate to realize his ideas. Jerram’s work is inspired by his research in the fields of biology, acoustic science, music, sleep research, ecology, and neuroscience. His projects range from placing upright pianos in outdoor locations in cities around the world for the public to make music (“Play Me, I’m Yours”) to studying the effect of sound on dreams (“Dream Director”) to creating a wind pavilion (“Aeolus’).

For the Commission, Jerram created two flameworked and blown glass sculptures, Smallpox Virus and HIV, from his “Glass Microbiology” series. In this series, he explores the tension between the beauty of his glass sculptures, the deadly viruses that they represent, and the global impact caused by these diseases. “The Smallpox Virus celebrates the 30th anniversary of the global eradication of this major disease,” Jerram says. “And the HIV represents humanity’s current worldwide struggle.”

Jerram worked with virologist Andrew Davidson to research the physical structures of the viruses, taking inspiration from high-resolution electron microscopic images and scientific models. With the help of scientific glassblowers, he created scientifically accurate depictions of notorious viruses and bacteria such as HIV, E. coli, SARS, and recently, H1N1. The sculptures are approximately one million times larger than the actual viruses.

“I nominated Luke Jerram for the 2010 Rakow Commission because I wanted to mark the Museum’s 25th Commission with an artwork that made reference to art history and to science,” said Tina Oldknow, curator of modern glass. “These two fields of inquiry have constituted the intellectual core of operations at the Museum since its opening in 1951, almost 60 years ago.”

Inaugurated in 1986, the Rakow Commission is awarded to professional artists whose work is not yet represented in the Museum’s collection. The commission supports new works of art in glass by encouraging emerging or established artists to venture into new areas that they might otherwise be unable to explore because of financial limitations. It is made possible through the generosity of the late Dr. and Mrs. Leonard S. Rakow, Fellows, friends, and benefactors of the Museum.

Each commissioned work is added to the Museum’s collection and is displayed publicly for the first time during the Museum’s annual Seminar on Glass. Smallpox Virus and HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) was unveiled October 15, 2010, following a public lecture by the artist.

The Corning Museum of Glass is home to the world’s most comprehensive collection of glass. Spanning the globe and encompassing more than 3,500 years of human ingenuity, the collection includes masterpieces from ancient Egypt, Greece, and Rome; the great civilizations of Islam, Asia, Europe and the Americas; and the range of artistic movements beginning in the late 19th century and extending to the present day. Interactive exhibits tell the story of life-changing historic advancements and contemporary innovations in glass technology.

Live glassblowing demonstrations (offered at the Museum, on the road in the U.S. and abroad, and at sea on Celebrity Cruises) bring the material to life for audiences of all ages. Daily Make Your Own Glass experiences at the Museum enable visitors to create their own work in a state-of-the-art hot glassmaking studio.

The Museum’s campus includes a year-round glassmaking school, The Studio, and the Rakow Research Library, the world’s foremost archive and reference collection on the history of glassmaking. A center for scholarship, the Museum also publishes glass-focused periodicals, books and exhibition catalogs.

Located in the heart of the Finger Lakes Wine Country of New York State, the Museum is open daily, year-round. Kids and teens, 19 and under, receive free admission. The Corning Museum of Glass is conveniently located directly off I-86/Rte. 17, mid-way between Niagara Falls and New York City.

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Yvette Sterbenk

Christine D’Aleo
Resnicow Schroeder Associates
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