Casey McMains, Lenore, USA 2018
Artist Casey McMains has made a name for herself through her intricately carved cameo glass vessels. Her interests in mythology, symbolism, comparative religion, and history have strongly influenced the themes and perspectives in her remarkable works. While her process is rooted in old-world craftsmanship, it is implemented with a decidedly contemporary perspective. After meeting Todd Merrill in 2017, the two collaborated on the concept of a cohesive collection of works with a distinctly narrative direction in a Gothic style, using the poetry and stories of Edgar Allan Poe as the genesis.
Lenore, the first in McMain’s Poe Series takes its inspiration from Poe’s poem of the same name. The vessel’s form references a Greek aryballos, a small spherical or globular flask with a narrow neck generally used for perfume or oils. The central theme of the poem is the death of a beautiful woman, which Poe called “the most poetical topic in the world.” McMains based the skull image on the grim visage of young woman who was buried in the Crossbones graveyard in Southwark, London, a cemetery reserved for paupers and “single” women (or prostitutes). The skull shows all the hallmarks of infection of syphilis which terrorized Europe from the 15th century until the invention of antibiotics. Gentle inclusions can be seen throughout the skull while a small part of the vessel appears to be eaten away furthering the metaphoric deterioration. Subtly rendered on the reverse of the vase is a single feather delicately floating on water suggesting loss and alluding to the final lines of the poem.
“And I!- to-night my heart is light!- no dirge will I upraise,
But waft the angel on her flight with a Paean of old days!”
McMains’ works have been celebrated for their dynamic imagery and meticulous balance between form and image. She believes that the form of the vessel gives shape to the image and the image gives life to the vessel. “When someone handles the piece; to touch and feel the art, another connection is formed with the artwork and the viewer; with the viewer and the artist,” she says. The alchemy of glass work, with its reliance on each of the four classical elements (Earth, Air, Fire, and Water) is of particular interest to McMains. In working with glass she has found a certain kind of magic – sculpting with light and shadow, transparency, translucency and opaqueness to create something both timely and timeless.
Dimensions: 7.5h x 6.5w x 6.5d inches
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