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Winter Park / Maitland Observer Saturday, Apr. 6, 2019 3 years ago

One of a Shine: Morse Museum of American Art hosts Iridescence Exhibit

The Iridescence — A Celebration exhibit is open at the Morse Museum of American Art.
by: Harry Sayer Black Tie Reporter

The Morse Museum of American Art has a number of exhibits, displays and vignettes of American Art from the late-19th and early-20th centuries for Winter Park residents.

But there’s one new exhibit Morse staff is hopeful attendees will take a shine to — the “Iridescence — A Celebration.”

The display, which opened in February, showcases nearly 50 rare and dazzling art pieces that rested in the earth for hundreds of years and others that were created by high-level craftspeople. 

Happy Accidents

The Iridescence pieces are made from different materials — including blown glass and cast glass, enamel and pottery — but all share that iridescent touch that gives the pieces a unique surface glow. Some are high-end Louis Tiffany shimmering pieces, while others are pieces of carnival glass that families’ grandparents kept in their homes. Jennifer Thalheimer, the Morse Museum’s curator and collection manager, said it’s an aesthetic that simply appeals to people from all walks of life. 

The style reached the height of its popularity in the late 19th and early 20th century, the exact time frame for which the Morse Museum focuses its exhibits.

“We try to capture things within that time period,” Thalheimer said. “Oftentimes, we have to do an art-nouveau show or an arts and crafts show or an aesthetic movement show or another very specialized show. It’s very rare we get to put all of those different styles together, and this is a great reason to do that. It was a lot of fun to put together.”

Although the style’s appeal is simple, its origins are not. Excavators in the mid-19th century began finding glass pieces buried in the earth since Roman times.  The art pieces’s minerals were naturally leeched out and rose to the surface over time. The result was an anamolous blue-to-green sheen that proved difficult for craftspeople to replicate. 

“It captured every artist,” Thalheimer said. “Not only was it an artistic drive but it was also chemical. You weren’t just working by blowing a pretty glass. You had to figure out how to get that effect through different techniques.

Artists would attempt to recreate these “happy accidents” by mixing metallic oxide into soft glass and would use a blowing tool to give it that surface shine as it cooled. It took a high level of skill to successfully create an iridescence piece — it could take days to months to finish a single piece, Thalheimer said. 

Wide Variety

Quite a large number of those original pieces found in the earth and their successful replicants are being held at the Morse. Thalheimer spent months working with staff to pick a wide variety of pieces — all made from different materials — from a variety of countries. She said the museum originally had enough pieces for four galleries.  

A pansy piece from renowned artist Louis  Comfort Tiffany has a rippling-outward design that also seems to have a drop of moisture effect from the iridescence. Thalheimer’s personal pride of the exhibit is a small A-Coll glass hand-picked from Tiffany himself. She said she lucked out finding this rare item at an auction in New York. 

“It always amazes me with glass is how hard the substance is but how fluid it is at the same time, it has a rushing movement to it,” she said. “

“Iridescence — A Celebration” is an ongoing exhibit and does not currently have an end date.

Charles Hosmer Morse’s Study at Osceola Lodge

Less flashy — but no less substantial — than the Iridescence exhibit is the museum’s new display of Charles Hosmer Morse’s Study at Osceola Lodge. The vignette has objects from Morse’s study during his time in the house around 1915 when he was almost 80. 

“This brings (our exhibits) home,” Thalheimer said. “One of the great things is that many of these pieces stayed in the house. We actually have photographs where we can point out these pieces and where Charles Hosmer Morse was sitting himself.”



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Harry Sayer is the Black Tie Reporter for the Observer. He is a graduate of the University of Central Florida and previously worked the Black Tie beat for the Observer newspaper in Winter Park and Maitland. You can catch him at one of Sarasota's fundraisers and shindigs. 


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