Shannon Brunskill credits a visit to the Tacoma Museum of Glass in Tacoma, Wash., as the moment she became awestruck by glass. Since then, she has been compelled to learn more about it at UT Arlington.
Brunskill states that she found the glass program at UT Arlington sometime after her experience in Tacoma and “anxiously transferred” to the University from her previous institution. Upon arrival at UT Arlington, she changed her major, achieved honors in her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in glass from UT Arlington, and is now pursuing her Master of Fine Arts degree at the University as well.
“Glass is marvelous,” Brunskill says with an enthusiastic tone. “Even if a glass piece is deemed broken or imperfect, internal fractures still allow light to dance around inside. I think it’s odd that something incredibly beautiful is nonetheless considered broken and something to throw away.”
“My current work expresses ideas about the fragility of childhood, and the aftermath of child neglect. As I began working with these ideas, the fractured and broken pieces of glass I work with became paramount in expressing these ideas I have. The inherent fragility associated with glass that I have been struggling with for so long is suddenly my biggest asset.”
Brunskill was a recipient of The Trudy and Ben Termini Graduate Student Research Grant, and the Travel Award of the Graduate Student Senate, known as the TAGSS award.
Through the generosity of philanthropists Drs. Trudy and Ben Termini, The Trudy and Ben Termini Graduate Student Research Grant provides funding to help meet the travel costs associated with either conducting research and/or creative activity, or presenting research at professional meetings. The TAGSS award provides funds for active Graduate Student Senate members to help meet the travel cost associated with conducting research or presenting research at professional meetings, and is funded by annual commitments from the Office of Graduate Studies and the Offices of the President, Provost and Vice President for Research.
These awards helped Brunskill study glass in Venice, Italy, during the 2009 summer semester. “I spent three weeks there, and studied Italian culture and language at the Institute de Venezia as well as spent time in the glass blowing studio with Davide Salvadore, a master glassblower from Murano.”
Exposure to the art, culture and glass history in Venice and on the island of Murano, Brunskill claims, has changed how she views the world around her after returning to the United States. “We have the ability to work with glass freely without the constraints of such a structured studio tradition. This experience has enabled me to appreciate the eastern influences and trade that allowed the Venetian glass industry to flourish in the 15th century and push the boundaries of what is currently accepted by contemporary glass artists,” says Brunskill.
In expressing her ideas in her current work, she employs “allegorical childhood symbols found in classic children’s books, television programs and stories such as a Radio-Flyer wagon, a dollhouse, a tricycle and a rocking chair.”
For Brunskill, “the iconic imagery allows viewers to conjure up memories of their own childhood through which they then view the work. I then use this imagery to create hybrid objects constructed from a combination of actual parts, and fabricated components. The fabricated components are cast of glass, which is then fractured. Glass is used because it is a material that is typically fragile, dangerous and kept out of the hands of children, which creates tension when used to create the very objects of their desire.”
Brunskill believes that combining fractured glass with iconic childhood images allows individuals to become actively and emotionally involved with her artwork.
“The viewer recognizes the fractures and then begins to question: why glass and why is the glass broken? Ultimately, the fragmented pieces that are fused together remind the viewer of the fragility of childhood and the results of child neglect.”
Brunskill has exhibited her work at the Bullseye Glass Gallery in Portland, Oregon, the National Liberty Museum in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the Fort Worth Community Arts Center in Fort Worth, Texas, and the Galveston Arts Center in Galveston, Texas.