As a founding member and former president of the Glass Art Society, along with finding California College of Arts and Crafts’ glass program, it is difficult to establish quite how important Marvin Lipofsky has been in creating the modern foundations of glass art.
But beside his numerous lifetime achievement awards, it is also important to recognize Lipofsky’s work as a practicing glass artist. Today, his works can be found peppered across the globe in both public and private institutions.
From Student to Educator
Raised in Barrington, Illinois, Lipofsky’s family owned a department store. Staying close to home, by the age of 24 he eared a BFA in industrial design from the University of Illinois. But his educational career was far from over; he continued studying and earned an MS and MFA in sculpture from the University of Wisconsin—Madison two years later.
While at the University of Wisconsin, Lipofsky studied under Harvey Littleton, the co-founder of the Studio Glass Movement. As such, Lipofsky found himself at the relative epicenter of American glass art, and quickly became enraptured.
After graduating, Lipofsky underwent a tenure as a Design instructor at the University of California, Berkeley. While here he shared much of what he was taught, and, as such, passed on and enhanced the teachings of Harvey Littleton—even founding the glass program at California College of Arts and Crafts. His time at the University of California saw Lipofsky influence numerous students who would later make names for themselves—such as John Lewis, Richard Marquis, and Jay Musler.
However, his work as an educator extended far beyond one school; with Lipofsky being an instructor for seminars and workshops at schools across the country—including the Pilchuck Glass School, Columbus College of Art and Design and even the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design in Jerusalem.
Within this all, he founded the Glass Art Society and served as its president from 1978 to 1980.
Style and Work
Putting his achievements in education to one side, it is important to recognize Lipofsky’s work itself. The majority of his work revolves around ethereal, coral-esque forms comprised of semi-translucent glass.
These intricate forms encourage viewers to peer past their surface beauty into the weaving, tangling and eminently intricate designs which lie within.
The designs themselves have been stated to be “inspired by internal organs, intestines, breast, stomachs, brains; their colorful, mottled, crumpled, broken shapes and expression of turbulence and restlessness.”
To achieve this effect, much of Lipofsky’s work is about glassblowing, utilizing specific techniques which experiment with the ways blown glass spheres can be opened, shaped and distorted.
While it is easy to separate Marvin Lipofsky’s life and work into two camps—of educator and artist—it is most fruitful to keep his identity combined. By doing so we can revel at his work in producing first-hand glass arts while also acknowledging the deep, important impression he has left on the medium as a whole through his time as a teacher and foundational member of the Glass Art Society.