Demons, gods and beasts are the subjects of this mid-career retrospective of the work of Panama-based artist Isabel De Obaldía, who places herself in the long line of modern ‘primitive’ artists – from Paul Gauguin to Diego Rivera – who explore the art of ancient cultures. In De Obaldía’s case, her work is inspired by the simplicity and power of pre-Columbian art, examples of which are included in this installation. Incorporating symbols from ancient Panamanian and Colombian art, De Obaldía’s glass sculptures are individually kiln cast, infused with color and their surfaces hand-ground and engraved to confer a semblance of antiquity. Grace Glueck of The New York Times has written of her sculptures that they “glow with a gentle translucence that gives them a presence more spectral than physical.”
Born in 1957 in Washington, D.C., De Obaldía was raised in Panama, where her father, Guillermo Trujillo, is a celebrated painter. She studied architecture at the University of Panama and drawing at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris. She received her B.F.A. in graphic design and cinematography from the Rhode Island School of Design in 1979 before continuing her studies at the Art Students League in New York City. Since 1987, she has worked with glass at the world-renowned Pilchuck Glass School in Stanwood, Washington, where she is a member of the International Council. De Obaldía currently lives and works in Panama City.
Primordial: Paintings and Sculpture by Isabel De Obaldía, 1985 – 2011 is organized by the Museum of Art I Fort Lauderdale in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Studio Glass Movement, which came to life on the grounds of the Toledo Museum of Art in 1961. Begun by ceramicist Harvey Littleton and chemist Dominick Labino, the Movement led to the formation of glass schools and studios located across the country, with significant concentrations of art glass production in and near Seattle, Washington. The nearby Pilchuck Glass School, where De Obaldía learned glass casting and engraving, has become a mecca for glass artists from all over the world. With an emphasis on the artist as the creator of one-of-a-kind objects in glass, the Studio Glass Movement has expanded the language of art to include glass making and provided new outlets for contemporary artists and glass to come together.
A fully-illustrated catalogue, with essays by Edward J. Sullivan, Susan Aberth and Mónica E. Kupfer, accompanies the exhibition and is available at Books & Books in the Museum lobby.
The exhibition has been organized with the generous support of Joan Baxt. Additional funding has been provided by the Broward County Board of County Commissioners as recommended by the Broward Cultural Council; the State of Florida, Department of State, Division of Cultural Affairs; and the Florida Council on Arts and Culture.