Loud grinding and polishing machines droned in the background as Austin Fields surveyed her newest creations at a studio on the campus of the University of Texas at Arlington. Around a dozen largely pastel glass sculptures lay in various stages of polishing ahead of their debut at an upcoming collaborative show with Fort Worth photorealist Jay Wilkinson at Fort Works Art.
“This is where all the aftermath happens,” she said, referring to the labor-intensive work of refining glass after it emerges from the kiln. “I still have to make decisions aesthetically about how I want to cut, grind, and polish them.”
Working with color wouldn’t be noteworthy for most artists, but Fields, a relative newcomer to the local art scene, has established a reputation for her clear and mirrorized works that play with light, depending on the viewer’s perspective. For the upcoming show, Chameleon, Fields said color was a natural evolution from her time working with Wilkinson.
“He would see my work and get inspired,” she said. “He put some of these pastels into his works. I pulled colors from his work. It’s a collaborative show in that sense.”
The commercial applications of glass are obvious. Fields isn’t above taking commissions to create wine tumblers. She enjoys playing with that sometimes-obscure line between fine art and handcrafted vases or bottles. Her new pastel glassworks leave a hole at one end, meaning anyone who buys them has the option to mount the piece on a wall or drop long stem flowers in it.
Fields started her studies in photography and printmaking at UTA before switching to glass as her preferred medium five years ago. She said she enjoyed the challenge of taming a material that often shatters the sculptor’s aims. The final products, she said, present a seemingly infinite number of perspectives that shift depending on light.
Opens Sat, Dec 15, at Fort Works Art, 2100 Montgomery St, FW. $10 for opening night only. 817-759-9475.
Fields’ medium is light as much as it is glass. For Chameleon, Fields is presenting two installation works alongside her sculptures. One work, which she described as “light drawings,” makes use of neon signs. The thin glass tubes are typically molded into signage. Fields’ work will be considerably more abstract. Her other installation piece will be video-based. She researched an old Italian technique that employs molten glass that is allowed to drip through a metal mesh. The results, she said, look like raining glass. She plans to record the process on video and project it during the show. Fort Works Art owner and curator Lauren Child said Fields was a natural complement to Wilkinson and his often haunting and moody paintings.
“There’s a fluidity and quietness to them that I thought would be the perfect juxtaposition to lighten the show,” Childs said, noting that she first saw Fields’ work at These Are My Friends, an August 2017 group show curated by Art Tooth, a local arts-supporting nonprofit of which I am a member.
“Her work at the time was all about reflection,” Childs said. “You see yourself, but you’re manipulated. Later on, I saw more of her range as an artist. I think she’s a fantastic artist.”
This January, Fields is moving to L.A. to further her career. While in the Golden State, she plans to continue both her fine and commercial lines of work with the idea that a larger potential consumer base may allow her to fulfill her longtime dream.
“The goal is for this to be my career and my main source of income,” she said. “It is exciting because I am selling more work than I ever have. It’s so humbling, but I feel like I need to put myself in that uncomfortable place, so I can further grow and be challenged as an artist.”
Fort Worth has been a welcoming and nurturing place to grow into an artist, she said. She plans on making many trips back to North Texas. The local scene, she said, has blossomed over the past two years.
“I’d love to stay connected,” she said. “This city is finally recognizing and appreciating its artists in big ways. A lot of my friends are getting recognition. I’m excited for what Fort Worth is going.”
Follow Fields @austinelisabeth.