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Review by Jenny Judge

The recent exhibition “Inside/Out” at the Craft Council of BC Gallery features ten sculptural pieces by glass artist Hope Forstenzer. She explores not only the material qualities of glass with a variety of techniques, but also addresses difficult and engaging content. She challenges herself to bring the two together making for a successful and thought provoking collection of work.

Hope focuses on the technique of Blown Glass and adds to this her interest in photographic imagery by exploring processes with resist, sandblasting, and images exposed directly onto the glass. The material of glass is best known for its transparency which gives it the ability to have both an outer shape and a visible interior- this gives the viewer an opportunity to peer into the inside of the form. Hope unveils layers of meaning and uses both the inside and outside of the material to convey and explore themes related to the inner and outer workings of human nature.

In her piece “Bully”, for example, the immediate over-inflated outer form of the red bully gives way to an inner shape to reveal the fragile, scared and often misunderstood nature of the individual on the inside. Hope tackles many difficult themes: grief, depression, dementia, and illness to name a few. She comments on how as individuals we carry inner voices and thoughts that are often held hidden and not apparent from the outside, or at first glance. Her works require careful consideration from the viewer before the full impact of the meaning and ‘inner’ message can be detected. It is this juxtaposition that makes the work interesting and keeps the viewer engaged-it reminds us to never take anything at its face value, that for every facade there is something hidden behind.

Though her subject matter could be treated with a heavy hand, Hope often uses her sense of humour, bright colours and imagery to invite us in. A glass gum ball machine is at first glance a fun image, and we are drawn in to its whimsical form. However upon closer inspection and reading the title “The Gumball Machine of Bad Thoughts” we quickly realize that it is not as it appears- the inside gives way to gumballs with sandblasted ‘bad thoughts’; they are the type of nasty comments that an individual could carry with them for a lifetime. A photographic figure at the dispenser end seems to be yelling “enough!’ or perhaps “don’t!” The darker and more expressive side of the piece is revealed from the inside of the form and the whimsy soon turns to expose a darker message.

Not all pieces use this whimsical approach to grab our attention. In “Grief” the photographic, sandblasted hands and simple, black opaque glass form come together as a solid statement about a complex emotional state; the state of grief, that is normally difficult to verbally express, is clearly articulated in the visual combination between the fragile nature of glass and the image of the hands cradling the abstracted head form.

This exhibition stresses exploration and Hope ventures into numerous glass techniques as a means to explore her subject matter. Not only does she use blown glass, but has also explored stained glass techniques as as a means to create a more pictorial approach to collaging together imagery and layers. These pieces are an interesting departure, and she successfully combines the photograph in this method of glass assemblage.

Hope is to be commended for the exploration of this difficult medium. She explores her subject matter through an array of glass techniques and her exhibition is aptly named “inside/out”. The viewer is drawn in visually between the inside and out, the material of glass and left to ponder the meanings between what is hidden inside and what is projected to the outside.