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John Lewis

John Lewis

American, born 1942

John Lewis enrolled at the University of California–Berkeley as a graduate student of architecture, where he was introduced to glassblowing by Marvin Lipofsky, the founder of the school's glass program. Lewis opened his hot-glass studio in Oakland in 1969, one of the first in the Bay Area. About ten years later, he received a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts that led him to explore cast glass as a sculptural medium. He designed a furnace especially for casting glass and began experimenting, pouring liquid glass into forms of various sizes and shapes. Today, he creates cast-glass furniture pieces and decorative vessels. Lewis has collaborated with numerous artists and architects to create site-specific projects and memorials, most notably the Oklahoma City National Memorial, which commemorates the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building.

Inspired by America's exploration of outer space in the 1960s and 1970s, John Lewis created a series of landscape vessels decorated with clouds, waves, moons, and other geologic forms. Lewis called these pieces his “glass moon bottles” and likens the creative process to painting with glass. To create each design, Lewis fused glass into a sphere form and moved the fused glass around on the surface. Over the course of the series, on which Lewis worked for approximately nine years, his decorations became more sophisticated as he was able to create ever-finer lines on the surface. Lewis tailored the design of each landscape according to the form of his vessel. (Smithsonian America n Art Museum, Renwick Gallery)