‘Glass Tangents’ First Show of 2017 at the Arts Center ‘Delights the Senses’

Article and story by Ree Slocum, originally published in The Willits Weekly

“Glass Tangents,” the new show at the Willits Center for the Arts, features the glass art of lifetime friends Jonah Ward and Kale Haschak. Both have returned to their hometown of Willits and are making art that not only delights the senses with their beautiful creations, but can leave one in awe of what can happen in the depths of creative minds.

Each has influenced the other, and both have taken glass art to very different, yet masterful conclusions, as seen in the two-room gallery in their first two-person show together. During their high school years in Willits, Haschak and Ward were friends who loved art and experimented with glass beads and other glass pieces using Ward’s father’s welding torch. They played and paid attention to the process, taking turns at making things. Each had fun and loved it. And each continued that love for art glass-making into their futures.

Haschak made glass lamps for his senior high school project and, after graduation, headed north to Arcata where he bought a torch so he could continue making glass lamps. In those days he “just did it out of the back window of my apartment,” he said. He was bitten by the art glass bug and migrated to the rich environment of art glass-making in Seattle, learning the basics as well as advanced glass-blowing techniques.

He also worked in teams of glass artisans and was hired as part of a team to make work for world-famous American glass sculptor, Dale Chihuly. After 10 years in Seattle working in a variety of studios, of which there are “at least a hundred,” Haschak met his wife, Jackie, and moved back to Willits. He has a small studio in town, “just a little back yard thing,” and after four years, it’s working out well.

Haschak’s pieces in the show range from fine, blown Venetian glassware to his newest work of almost ceremonial sculptures: some made with thick pieces of glass where the edges are shaped and knapped like ancient spears or arrowheads and adorned with leather and feathers. “I grew up with my father collecting arrowheads,” Haschak said, “and I like that Stone Age technology of chopping pieces of stone to make tools just to survive. And the ceremony that went along with them. And most of our art comes from ceremony. Most of the great art in our culture is religious. So just wondering what they put their time and energy into, some of these objects that’d be used once, then destroyed or buried with someone.”

After high school, on a very different path, Jonah Ward headed south to Oakland and the California College of Arts and Crafts, majoring in glass. He learned the various glass-blowing methods but discovered using the medium in a very divergent and unusual way. He and a friend were experimenting with burning paper with molten glass, with not a lot of success. It seemed to be a quick step for Ward to try some of the techniques with wood, and he immediately entered the world of his own unique creations: “drawings formed with glass.”

In his graduate show at CCAC, he introduced his new work. It was well-received, and his art has led to many sales to collectors in the United States as well as abroad. In this show, Ward has filled the room with wooden panels: lines burned in by streams of molten glass, sometimes straight and intersecting, sometimes fluid and organic. “I’ve used many exotic woods, but always felt uneasy about it,” Ward said. Recently his family downed some trees on their land to make room for a truffle farm. Ward decided to use and honor the local wood by milling it himself and, with his mobile glass furnace, burning in a new body of work, some of which were made for the “Glass Tangents” show.

Both men work with the molten glass almost as a mercurial being.... They may have a plan, but for reasons not always known, they have to let go of the plan and work with the material as it is, in that moment: A definite collaboration between artist and the vagaries of his medium, making the creative process fluid and, likely, more fun.

The brilliance of WCA curator Gary Martin shines once again in this show, with his ability to captivate the community with a multidimensional introduction of an art form through highly skilled artisans and other, new, WCA features. In the downstairs classroom during the opening party on Saturday, January 7, two video shows made by local documentary filmmaker, Al Rosen and Ryan Stirtz showed Ward and Haschak each working in their separate studios.

This exquisite addition helped people understand and appreciate the processes each artist employs in making their art. WCA manager Holly Madrigal interviewed the artists during a Q&A session at the start of the reception, treating WCA members to hearing the artists’ unique

New to the art center are two beautiful wooden benches donated by Willits Furniture Center that give people a place to contemplate art and chat with friends. Kemmy’s Pies catered the “Glass Tangents” opening with savory rolled treats as well as their famous pies in tartlet form ... a perfect combination.

“Glass Tangents” showed at the WCA from January 7 through January 29, 2017. 

Below are a few photos from the opening reception taken by Ree Slocum.