Artist Spotlight: Marvin Lipofsky, Glass Art Pioneer

October 26, 2016

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marvin lipofskyMarvin Lipofsky (1938 – 2016) was a pioneer in the Studio Glass Movement. Through his personal creations, as well as his passions for teaching and travel, Lipofsky did more than perhaps any other single artist of his time to further the idea of blown glass sculpture as an expressive artistic medium.

Born and raised in the suburbs of Chicago, Marvin Lipofsky completed a BFA in Industrial Design at the University of Illinois before going on to pursue an MS/MFA in sculpture at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

It was in Madison in the early 1960s that Lipofsky became one of the first students in the university’s newly created glass department, under the tutelage of studio glass movement founder Harvey Littleton. Upon graduation, Lipofsky was hired to implement a similar glass program at the University of California, Berkeley, and then the California College of the Arts, where he taught until 1987.

As an artist, Lipofsky is best known for his organic, biomorphic “bubbles” of glass with various colors and textures that redefined the parameters of glass sculpture. Of the two principal methods of glassblowing, Lipofsky favored free-blowing styles to create unique, visceral shapes over the mold-blowing techniques often used to create uniform, functional glass art such as vases or bowls.

“Marvin was especially important in working with blown glass in a sculptural way,” said Tina Oldknow, former curator at the Corning Museum of Glass. “He stretched it, he ripped it apart, he hot-worked it — he did whatever he could to make it not a container but at the same time retain the characteristics of blown glass.”

In addition to his artistic contributions to the field, Lipofksy is equally notable for his commitment to spreading the studio glass movement through his teachings and his international travels. He taught over 300 workshops in more than 30 different countries around the world, cultivating a global network of international exchange that remains important to the glass world today.

Marvin Lipofsky died in January 2016 at the age of 77. Yet his spirit lives on in the thriving glass artwork community that he helped to create.

“He was so influential in helping others understand the potential of glass,” said a former exhibition collaborator, Tim O’Brien. “He inspired others to follow their ideas.”