Renander’s ‘Glass Forest’ exhibit at the Square filled with multi-textured masterpieces
Not many people can make art using glass, let alone glass art that’s both beautiful and multi-textured.
In fact, it might be one of the most difficult mediums to work with. Yet, for Kiki Renander, she’s always felt a natural attraction to it for as long as she can remember.
Renander’s “Glass Forest” exhibit opened at the Paris Gibson Square Museum of Art on Friday. These unique glass pieces all feature multi-layered images of trees. The images feature different colored glass that’s been sandblasted using many different techniques to create a collage-like feel to each piece. Her pieces are on display in the Dufrense/Cobb Gallery, which is named after two long-time financial donors to the Square.
Renander’s been working in stained glass for 17 years. At the opening on Friday she said she can’t remember having a specific reason why she got into it other than she loves the natural beauty and shine of glass before she even does any work to it.
“I’ve wanted to do stained glass forever but I can’t really remember one specific thing that got me into it,” she said. “It’s a beautiful medium before you even do anything to it. When you’re starting out you’re already ahead of the game working with glass. I like the flashiness, which sort of sounds childish, but I’m really drawn to it and it’s totally different than painting in any other medium and I’ve done almost all of them.”
Nearly every one of Renander’s pieces feature sandblasted wood grains or tree rings in the background, which she says give it a more finished look. She also does a new method of painting, which she says is laborious and difficult to do, but makes for another intriguing element.
“The wood grains are real designs that are based on real pictures of wood or real pieces wood,” she said. “It’s a design element that adds more texture. It’s distilled down a little, but it’s based on the real thing.” And because each of her pieces are made from glass, they also emit a unique reflection on the walls behind them that are unique to glass.
As for which kinds of trees Renander chooses to create, she said she enjoys silhouettes more than the bushy types in part because the medium she uses. She said it doesn’t allow for big sprawling deciduous trees with lots of leaves or pine needles. She also said that many of the trees in this exhibit come from real trees around her home in Missoula.
Renander also creates commissions out of her studio. In 2004 she attended the Pilchuck Glass School outside of Seattle as a scholarship student. It was here that she experienced the possibilities of doing sand blasted etching on glass after attending Peter McGrain’s glass painting work shop in Bengin, Washington.
At the workshop she learned the traditional techniques of glass painting, silver staining and some basic fusing. By combining these techniques with traditional stained glass methods Renander creates her unique glass panels. Renander primarily does commissions for homes and commercial spaces nowadays and has been a member of The Artists’ Shop Co-op in Missoula, Montana for the past 15 years.
She attend the University of Montana in Missoula and graduated in 1998 with a B.A. in Fine Arts. She has ties to Great Falls where she attended junior high and high school. Though she had primarily been a painter in college, she was always drawn to glass. After graduation she served as an intern in Sun Valley, Idaho with glass artist and Great Falls native, Jacques Bordeleau
And while she’s been at it for almost 20 years, she said she still does drop pieces now and then, adding that that’s just kind of the nature of the medium.
“I’ve broken a lot of stuff. I have broken stuff toward the end of the process when I’ve already put in many hours of work and at the beginning, which, right at the beginning is a lot better, but I’ve had my cats break pieces, and all kinds of other things. It’s just sort of never ending. It’s frustrating medium it really is — it’s expensive, it’s painful, and it’s kind of toxic and I break a lot, but I get over it because it’s so beautiful and I love it.”