Current Edition | Visual Arts

Valerie Hollstein’s Lower 48, in Glass

“My attraction to glass comes from an infatuation with colors,” says Valerie Hollstein. “It expresses right off the bat what I need to convey. I can choose contrasting color temperatures without muddying my colors, as I would with oil. It is a more spontaneous response that lets me create happy images.” Born and raised in southern France, Hollstein came to the United States in her 20s. She went to school at the University of Utah, and as if that weren’t enough, also studied the Russian language.  She became an American citizen in 1997, and a decade later has created a magnificent homage to her adopted country. In glass.

Her 15’ 7” x 9’ 4” map of the continental United States, completed last year, weighs 400 pounds. Originally Hollstein wanted to make a much smaller map, but realized that some of the New England states would be so tiny in execution that an image symbolizing their characteristics would be hard to see. The idea for the map came from her experiences while working as a flight attendant. Co-workers would share their ideas about what their state represented and what image/symbol could define it. That and Hollstein’s layovers in many U.S. cities provided a way to see and experience the character of each state for herself. “There is quite a contrast between a 14-hour brain-numbing duty day and the wonderful feeling of being alive, walking around new places, taking it all in and preserving the joy of it on canvas or in glass.” It is intriguing that a Frenchwoman would choose to create such a map, but as she says, “… I saw this as a way to combine my artist life with my flight attendant life. Maybe it’s a way to connect more deeply with my adopted country, since I do belong to two worlds.”

The creation of Hollstein’s beautiful and skilled glass pieces is not a simple and straightforward process. She uses her art education to help her draw an outline of what she wants to create in glass – she has to know how to make a convincing figure or landscape. She has to cut the glass into a shape she needs. Sometimes she just puts a few marks on the base to remind her of what needs to be where, and then goes straight to applying the glass pieces. Other times she might make the base into an oil painting and apply the glass over the image. And sometimes she just creates an image as she applies the glass fragments to the base, without a sketch or mark, or oil paint.

The map recently traveled to Grand Rapids, Michigan, for Artprize8, where it was awarded second place in the 2-dimensional category – second out of some 900 entries. Going from huge to small, Hollstein’s glass image of two rows of cowboy boots won first place in the miniatures category in Cheyenne, Wyoming, at the Old West Museum, which bought the piece for their collection. And very recently, she has been invited to be in the 2018 Calgary Stampede in Alberta, Canada. With that invitation, she will spend three days on the Stampede Ranch this coming September to conceptualize a body of works for 2018. She will also have an artist liaison there to advise and support her ideas.

Hollstein’s husband, Erick, is a great support for her. She tells us that she couldn’t do it without him. He encourages her, make supports for the glass, does the heavy hauling, provides technical advice. And then there’s her other muse – a sweet little cat who drapes itself over Hollstein’s shoulder while she works, sometimes reaching a paw out to tap a piece of glass, as though indicating it is the right shape or color for her next move. She’s got a good team.

Carol Fulton got her degree in radio and television production a long time ago. She was born in Brazil and lived in many countries. Now retired from the airline industry, she dabbles in oil painting and found-object sculpture.

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