Rochester glass artist freezes moments in resin for Schweinfurth exhibit


When Margery Pearl Gurnett was a child, she and her brother loved to go outside on cold winter mornings to search for thin ice that formed overnight on top of puddles. “We called this ‘Milk-kee-way Ice’ because of the swirls of white and clear, as it froze in an instant,” she recalled. “I loved the feel of this ice as we crunched it with our feet.”

She especially loved that ice because, while almost invisible, it managed to capture any twigs, leaves, and insects that were laying on top when it froze. “I imagined whole snow globe worlds in the still glassiness, a borrowed moment captured forever, recorded temporarily in the ice,” she said.

In many ways, that’s what Gurnett’s current artwork, on display at the Schweinfurth Art Center from Sept. 1 through Oct. 14, 2018, captures as well. The solo exhibition, Reflecting Forward, features her 3D mixed media wall pieces made with glass, paper, paint, and found objects suspended in resin.

“I had been photographing ice for years as an adult,” Gurnett said. “When I began to experiment with resins, I realized that the feeling I got when I looked into the work was reminiscent of the early childhood experience of gazing into ice, which had captured my imagination.

“My intent is to suspend and embed inclusions and photographic images into liquid resins, which will freeze its moment in time and make the inserted materials appear to float in space like the fast-frozen ice I remember from my childhood,” she continued.

Gurnett was born and raised in New York City. Her family supported her interest in art, taking her to many museums. By age 7, she knew a career in art was her future. She earned her bachelor’s degree in fine arts at Carnegie Mellon University and a master’s degree in glass at the Rochester Institute of Technology.

For many years, she used her training to make functional art, such as perfume bottles, bowls, and vases. Then she transitioned into working with architects and interior designers, making glass tabletops, partitions, signs, and lighting. She sandblasted patterns and designs into the glass, then applied paint to the sandblasted areas.

In 1997, Gurnett was commissioned to make glass ornaments for the White House Christmas tree. In 2000, she added mosaics to her repertoire when she created a glass mosaic horse for Rochester’s Horses on Parade community artwork. That led to several commissions for large mosaic pieces, including three at Roberts Wesleyan College in Rochester.

In recent years, Gurnett’s work can best be described as 3D collages that incorporate glass, resin, and other materials. Last year, she attended an artists’ summit in Cincinnati where she was encouraged to make her work more transparent and glass-like. Through trial and error, she found a process that worked, and in the Schweinfurth’s show she has a larger work, entitled “Exaltation,” made up of many smaller panels.

“Part of the allure of the transparent work is how the light casts shadows behind the pieces,” Gurnett said. “There is a bit of serendipity in that, which I mostly like when I remind myself to give up control. My direction in the future will potentially be transparent work that will have more color and overlapping of glass embedded in the pieces.”

Gurnett’s work will be on display in the Schweinfurth’s Gallery Julius through Oct. 14. While the show opens Sept. 1, the opening reception will be 5 to 8 p.m. Sept. 7 at the art center, 205 Genesee St., Auburn.

If you go …
What: Reflecting Forward
Who: Margery Pearl Gurnett
Where: Schweinfurth Art Center, 205 Genesee St. Auburn, NY
When: Sept. 1 to Oct. 14, 2018
Details: Opening reception is 5 to 8 p.m. Friday, Sept. 7. Also opening is “Maya Textiles and Identity in Guatemala,” an exhibit of textiles from different Guatemalan pueblos and how they illustrate indigenous identity on various cultural and social levels curated by Colgate University Professor Carol Ann Lorenz.
Art center hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays and 1 to 5 p.m. Sundays
Admission: $7 a person; members and children 12 and under are free