Rocking the boat

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Rice dedicates work by world-renowned artist

Glass installation by Lino Tagliapietra created for Fondren Library

Rice News staff

As Lino Tagliapietra's artwork hangs before him in Rice University's Fondren Library, a special pride swells in his chest and voice.

"A library is where you come when you want to know," Tagliapietra said. "Then you come here, and you know. It's a passageway for knowledge."

Funded by a gift from alumnus Albert '64 and Elizabeth Kidd, Lino Tagliapietra's nine colored blown-glass "boats" cascade from the ceiling as visitors enter the heart of Fondren Library. 

That idea of passage is echoed in Tagliapietra's glass sculpture installation in the library's east entrance. Nine colored blown-glass "boats" cascade from the ceiling as visitors enter the heart of the library. Funded by a gift from alumnus Albert '64 and Elizabeth Kidd, the piece is Tagliapietra's first cascading installation and the first piece he has created specifically for a university.

The boats, which seem to float midair, appear to be similarly constructed at first glance -- they are roughly the same shape and size -- but a closer look reveals intricacies in each. The piece is designed to be contemplative and conducive to the pathbreaking ideas that often coalesce during hours of research and learning within the bookcased walls of Fondren.

Widely regarded as one of the world's greatest living glass artists, Tagliapietra is familiar with breaking paths and boundaries. For the past three decades, he has shared his experience, understanding and knowledge of traditional Venetian glassblowing techniques with glass artists and audiences around the world. He has been largely responsible for a new renaissance in glassmaking.

For Tagliapietra, each work of art is a triumph of his spirit and carries special meaning. In every piece he finds something new.

"I've been doing this for 60 years and I feel the same passion, the same joy of discovery as when I started," he said. "I think my work shows what is possible when you try. You have to try."

Tagliapietra said that is one of the reasons his piece fits in so well with the library. "At a library you discover what has been done and you imagine what is possible to do," he said.

Tagliapietra was born in Venice, Italy, the centuries-old center for Venetian glassmaking. At age 11, he was an apprentice to internationally known Muranese master Archimede Seguso and achieved the rank of maestro by age 21. He later worked as master glassblower and designer at other glass studios, including Galliano Ferro, Venini, La Murrina and Effetre International. 

Since the 1980s, Tagliapietra has made the transition from traditional Venetian master glassblower and glass designer to that of independent studio artist, devoting his attention to focus on his own artistic expression and unique works. He has received numerous awards for his work, including his 2007 election to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

"Like Rice, Lino is committed to excellence," Albert Kidd said. "He has other Rice traits too -- a love of his craft, a disciplined work ethic and a demand for perfection. From the time we first met Lino, it was clear he was the right choice."

Their decision was reaffirmed earlier this year when they visited Tagliapietra in Seattle to see the "boats" and meet other glass artists.

Tagliapietra2Artist Lino Tagliapietra, second from left, is joined by, from left, Elizabeth and Albert '64 Kidd and Rice President David Leebron. Photo by: Jeff Fitlow 

"Everyone we met spoke of Lino's talent and the positive influence that he had made on them and their careers," Kidd said. "It is so fitting to have his work in a university, given his commitment to teaching and mentoring. We hope that this will be the first of many important works of art on campus." 

The installation is the first piece in a campuswide arts initiative that seeks to incorporate art into the landscape and interior public spaces. The initiative is led by the Rice University Art Committee, chaired by Raymond Brochstein '55. The committee underscores the Vision for the Second Century's (V2C) strategic priority to create a more vibrant and dynamic campus.