I work primarily with flameworked glass, using a torch with a 3000 degree flame to soften and sculpt the glass I am working with. Hollow tubing allows me to create delicate blown forms that I shape with my breath. One of my main processes involves heating glass and manipulating it with gravity and a series of careful yet aggressive motions. I alter the surface texture of the glass with repeated steps of simple manipulations, until it is transformed.
My goal as an artist is to defy existing expectations about glass. I aim to create work that carries a sense of mystery, making the viewer question how it came to be. My art is inspired by the patterns found in the visual languages of nature. I reimagine microscopic life forms on a large scale. I create compositions with repetition and rhythm. Rather than copy nature as it exists, I observe anatomical elements from disparate forms of life. I select, amplify, and augment minute detail, and merge them to create biological chimeras.
My work often explores the paradox of defense mechanisms in plants and animals. The glass object is perceived by the viewer as simultaneously fragile and menacing with its aggressive forms and sharp appendages. The threat inherent in the object is warranted by the very delicacy of the material. Fierce and delicate are contrasting qualities that I try to synthesize in my work.
My largest body of works, the Vitreous Arthropods series, is based on the idea of fossils from the distant future. In this neo-mythology, silicon-based life forms will populate the earth after the extinction of humans, and will thrive in the superheated climate that is a consequence of humans themselves. These fierce, primitive beings are my way of imagining the next species to inhabit the earth when carbon based life is no longer viable. Glass itself becomes an organic medium for life with the capacity for evolution.
Human curiosity about the unknown motivates us to push the limits of our scientific knowledge. Through the use of unfamiliar interpretations of organic forms, my work evokes that curiosity and calls attention to the margins of our realm of awareness.
Flameworking is an intimate act of creation, your every move can affect the outcome of the work. Interacting with the flame on such a personal level allows for extreme control of a sometimes volatile medium.
— Madeline Rile Smith. 2016