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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Mixing media at 1,200-plus degrees

By Paula Rath
Advertiser Staff Writer

Bud Spindt, right, and Roger Whitlock discuss glass pieces and the effects they may create when they melt and reshape them into art.


Collaborative works in glass by Bud Spindt and Roger Whitlock
10 a.m.-9 p.m. Mondays-Saturdays, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Sundays, until Aug. 26 Gallery at Ward Centre
Bud Spindt's "Tropixa Exotica" is at the Gallery at Ward Centre.

Creating art is normally a lonely pursuit. Art happens deep inside the individual artist, in a place where no one else can go. It's all about the artist facing the blank canvas or sheet of paper or block of wood or pile of glass shards.

That's why the idea of collaborative art can be so intriguing. How does one artist connect with another to create a unified piece that will speak to the viewer?

Add to this the idea of two artists who work in diverse media trying to collaborate on one piece and it would seem to be asking the impossible.

If that is so, "Trans Luxe," the show in the Gallery at Ward Centre, is "Mission Impossible" realized.

Glass artist Bud Spindt of Waimanalo and watercolorist Roger Whitlock of Kailua had often seen their work side by side in shows at the Gallery at Ward Centre. It struck them that they had one key element in common: transparency. "I always liked seeing Bud's glass pieces next to my paintings, and it evolved into, 'Hey, why not do something together?' " Whitlock said.

"What if Roger does paintings out of glass shards and I blow them out?" Spindt suggested.

They met in the glass studio at the University of Hawai'i-Manoa. Spindt drew a circle on a stainless-steel table; this was to be Whitlock's "palette." Whitlock was given shards of glass (pieces from transparent bubbles of glass that are broken and melted with a blow torch to make them flat), as well as glass in long strings, small bits and powders.

Although the media were quite different from the watercolor paints and paper to which he is accustomed, Whitlock found that the elements of color and composition were similar.

As Whitlock created the glass "painting," Spindt heated up white and clear glass, fusing it to the colored glass. Once the piece was ready for the glass blower, Spindt rolled the glass out on the table to create a round, vessel-like shape. His assistant, Jaymes Staley, blew air into the vessel as Spindt turned and shaped it. The shapes of the vessels were driven by the aesthetic of Whitlock's paintings.

Shaping glass is tough physical work, requiring prodigious strength as well as lung power. The glass is heated to 1,200 to 1,800 degrees, so great care must be taken at all times.

"I learned how physically hard it is to work with glass," Whitlock said. "A couple of the pieces took 45 minutes of a long, technical process with sweat dripping down ... and in the end, sometimes the piece would just break."

"At any stage you could lose it," Spindt explained. A little too much pressure, a tad more air than necessary, and the shaped piece becomes a pile of shards.

"It's also true of watercolor painting," Whitlock said.

You can easily lose the transparency ... if it dries too fast, or you apply one too many layers of paint and it becomes muddy. But at least it doesn't shatter.

The collaborators attempted to create 11 pieces for the show. Seven survived.

Whitlock learned that although blue glass was his favorite color to "paint" with, it is the most problematic to blow because it gets soft the fastest. After a few torturous pieces, he began choosing more yellows.

"We were right on the edge the whole time as we were doing the largest piece, and it's the most dynamic piece because of that," Spindt explained.

There were lots of surprises. "We discovered more was better as we worked on more pieces," Whitlock explained. "The more layers we added, the more unexpected the results."

Will they collaborate again?

"I hope so. It was exciting and illuminating," Whitlock said. "It was liberating to me to turn the surface design over to someone else and deal with the consequences," Spindt added with a broad smile.

And, yes, after the collaboration the artists are still friends.