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Glass Artist Josh Simpson Defies Gravity

Creator of world’s largest paperweight to present free July 16 talk at Block Museum

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June 28, 2011 | by Judy Moore
Glass artist Josh Simpson -- creator of the world’s first 100-pound paperweight -- will discuss his work and his artistic process at 11 a.m. Saturday, July 16, at the Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art.

EVANSTON, Ill. --- Internationally renowned and exhibited glass artist Josh Simpson -- creator of the world’s first 100-pound paperweight -- will discuss his work and his artistic process in a special summer event at Northwestern University.

Free and open to the public, Simpson’s talk will take place at 11 a.m. Saturday, July 16, in the Pick-Laudati Auditorium at the Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art, 40 Arts Circle Drive, on the University’s Evanston campus. A 10:30 a.m. coffee reception will precede the discussion. His visit is co-sponsored by the American Craft Exposition (ACE).

Simpson’s intricate glassworks will be on display and for sale during the annual American Craft Exposition, one of the country’s premier fine crafts shows, that will be held from Aug. 26 to 28, at Northwestern’s Henry Crown Sports Pavilion, 2311 N. Campus Drive, on the University’s Evanston campus. The August expo also is a major fundraiser supporting critical breast and ovarian cancer research and care at NorthShore University HealthSystem.

Simpson’s masterfully crafted “Megaplanet” -- a massive glass paperweight made for the Corning Museum of Glass in Corning, N.Y. -- was the subject of a 2006 Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) documentary titled “Defying Gravity.” Corning commissioned Simpson to design and create the 1,000th paperweight for the firm’s museum collection. It turned out to be a labor-intensive 18-month project. For a video clip from the documentary, visit www.blockmuseum.northwestern.edu.

Simpson has created glass art for more than four decades. He finds inspiration in the colors and complexity of nature. His “Planets,” which are small and light enough to hold in one hand, are luminous glass spheres encasing kaleidoscopic landscapes, underwater scenes and outer space vistas. 

His other works include “Tektites,” which combine the same raw materials in tektite meteorites (intricately shaped nodules and blobs of a glassy substance) that have fallen from outer space. His newest works, which he calls “Corona” platters, evoke Hubble and Chandra Space Telescope imagery. 

Simpson’s work is in the permanent collections of numerous museums and institutions, including the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and the Museum of Decorative Arts in Prague. 

Free weekend parking is available on the Northwestern University campus. For more, visit www.blockmuseum.northwestern.edu or call (847) 491-4000.

Topics: University News, Campus Life