Within a contemporary art context, the embrace of glass as a medium to communicate ideas is relatively new and fun for Wisconsinites, linked to artists working in this state. Glass in and of itself is an ancient material that has long been used for decorative, mechanical, functional, and commercial purposes. But in the 1960s, very particular efforts were underway at University of Wisconsin-Madison to focus attention on artists as the makers of one-of-a-kind glass objects in a studio setting. In the years since, glass has had no shortage of interest from artists who appreciate its physical, structural, and metaphorical properties.
Recognizing the value of glass as a material for use in many capacities, 2022 has been designated the International Year of Glass by the United Nations. This exhibition spotlights glass as an art medium but, more importantly, in some ways, calls attention to the work of contemporary artists of color from RAM’s collection. While neither of these two threads are unique ones at RAM, this is the first exhibition dedicated to featuring only artists of color working with this material. It is important to point out that while there are theoretically no limitations to the materials any artist can use, there have historically been barriers to some artists of color in the United States—indirect or otherwise—to access to tools, materials, or studio spaces. In this current moment, more and more efforts are being made to not just support and encourage the work of artists of color but also to draw attention to the work that has already been done.
One of the featured artists, Etsuko Nishi, has worked in the United States but is generally considered a treasured Japanese artist. Her inclusion in this exhibition reflects the global interest in glass as an art-making material.
About RAM Showcase Exhibitions
RAM Showcase exhibitions highlight the work of contemporary artists of color.
In this moment in time, it is critical that RAM spotlights voices that have been historically underrepresented, such as women and artists of color. Artists of color are identified in this context as non-white and non-European. This simplification, which is arguably a flawed starting point, does not account for the nuances and variations of society. It is a beginning—a way to direct those who want to educate themselves about what is possible when new perspectives are encountered.
While the work of artists of color has been and will continue to be shown in a variety of contexts at both campuses, the Showcase series highlights conversations around equity, inclusion, and social justice. This means underscoring the presence of the work of artists of color, primarily from the collection as well as, at times, featuring artists addressing critical social and cultural issues across a broad spectrum.
Further, as an educational institution rooted in the humanities and using art as a catalyst, the museum wants to encourage inquiry and exploration about the world in which we live. RAM hopes spotlighting artists of color spurs further engagement with these artists and their ideas.
RAM is committed to supporting diverse voices—whether that diversity reflects race, gender, heritage, ethnicity, sexuality, age, ability, social standing, or world perspective.
Artists in the Exhibition
José Chardiet, Etsuko Nishi, Acquaetta Williams, and Brent Kee Young