"Reflections" at the Kimball Art Center
November 8, 2010
Amy Pruzan’s interest in visual arts blossomed while she was a student studying abroad at Alexander Muss High School in Israel 10 years ago.
She and her class were visiting Jerusalem and stepped into an exhibit by renowned glass-artist Dale Chihuly.
"The sun was rising and I saw this modern-glass sculpture within this whole city of ruins," Pruzan told The Park Record during a telephone interview from Chicago, Ill. "That moment changed my life."
Upon her return home to Seattle, Wash., Pruzan enrolled in art classes at Seattle’s Pilchuck Glass School and the Pratt Fine Arts Center to kick-start her career. A few months later, she and her family suffered another life-changing experience.
"We had a devastating house fire when I was studying at Pilchuck," she said. "We lost our house, which burned to the studs. We lost nearly everything."
However, family members found nine childhood photos of Pruzan as they sifted through the ashes.
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"They were of me at a grocery store and visiting my grandmother in California," Pruzan said. "But I couldn’t remember having those pictures taken. And that bothered me.
"My mom, who took all the pictures, could remember them all, and I was like, ‘Why can’t I remember?’ ‘Where has my memory gone?’"
As therapy, Pruzan decided to preserve the photos in what she calls "Memory Bottles." The project was the nucleus of what would become her "Reflections" exhibit, which will be on display at the Kimball Art Center’s Badami Gallery, beginning Saturday, Nov. 6. The exhibit will be presented opposite Ansel Adams’ "Early Works," which begins its run the same day.
"I rephotographed the photos and transferred them to giant transparencies on sheets of negative," Pruzan said of her work during the early stages of the project. "I then printed them as positive."
She installed the images into nine liquid-filled, blown-glass bottles.
"I made the ‘Memory Bottles’ to preserve the images for myself," Pruzan said. "The photographic images represent memory. The glass, like how you remember things, can either show the image clearly or distort it."
Six of the original nine "Memory Bottles" will be part of the exhibit, as well as other glass and photo works.
Pruzan — who graduated magna cum laude from Seattle’s Cornish College for the Arts in 2006 with a triple major in sculpture, print and photography — found creating the works for "Reflections" not only therapeutic, but also satisfying.
"I was able to combine two of my passions, glass and photography, into one project," she said. "And working with the two is so different.
"There is a challenge working with glass," she said. "It’s very physical and demanding and intense. And I had to conquer my fear of fire.
"But anything being made with glass is usually done in a fast process that can be completed over a course of four hours, including the grinding and polishing."
The photography, Pruzan said, takes longer to complete and is more meticulous, she said.
"You take a picture and then develop the negative," she said. "Then you print, transfer and reprint. So there are more steps that take longer than working with glass."
Pruzan said the mediums contain physical properties, when standing alone, can be considered artistic expressions in themselves.
"The photo itself is interesting," she said. "In order for a photo to exist, before Photoshop and other technological developments, the subject itself had to be real. The photographic image back then was truth, a record of a moment frozen in time.
"Glass, on the other hand, can be thick and it can be thin," she said. "It can be deadly. It can be fragile."
When an artist combines the two mediums, the viewers’ experiences more than double, Pruzan said.
"The glass is like the mind’s eye,"she said. "And when you view an image through glass, the image shifts depending how thick or thin the glass is.
"The idea is that the glass vessels are actually blown hollow so the images, when placed into them, can float and be rocked, lending to a movement element in the works," Pruzan said. "The image can fade back and distort, or it can sharpen into focus. Depending on where you are and the light during different times of the day, you see the picture differently."
Furthermore, the glass containers are suspended on stands of metal, which Pruzan refers to as "gates."
"They’re supposed to be the elements of decay," she explained. "Each (gate) represents a different man-made structure, but in abstract."
A cathedral, the Roman Coliseum and the Golden Gate Bridge are among the abstract metal gates, Pruzan said.
"As I was working with this exhibit, I thought of how humans change the landscape in nature’s memory," she said. "So these gates represent those landscape changes."
Pruzan, who also creates art for cancer survivors at the Fred Hutchinson Research Center in Seattle, is no stranger to the Kimball Art Center.
She helped her mentor, Ginny Ruffner, with an exhibit at the Center two years ago.
"I love Park City," Pruzan said. "I fell in love with it when I was there with Ginny’s exhibit."
Pruzan did say she was interested in how Park City arts patrons will react to "Reflections."
"One of the things I love is to see how people respond to what I present," she said. "I’ve had so many people tell me about their own memories that my works have awakened. To see how my images spark that reaction is what I love. And that’s really the joy of being an artist, no matter what medium you’re working in."
Pruzan said it was an added bonus that "Reflections" will be displayed the same time Ansel Adams’ "Early Works," which opens the same day at the Kimball Art Center.
"Ansel Adams, one of the original landscape photographers, is a hero of mine," she said. "Being in a show opposite Ansel Adams is the biggest honor of all."
Amy Pruzan’s "Reflections" will be on display at the Kimball Art Center, 638 Park Avenue, from Saturday, Nov. 6, to Jan. 12, 2011, 10 a.m. To 5 p.m. on weekdays and noon to 5 p.m. on weekends.. An opening reception for Kimball members will be held for Pruzan on Nov. 6, from 6 p.m to 8 p.m. 435-649-8882 or http://www.kimballartcenter.org