Paul M. Hollister Collection, The Rakow Research Library of The Corning Museum of Glass
Transcribed by Bard Graduate Center
Title: Paul Hollister Interview with Sydney Cash, July 2 and July 13, 1981 (Rakow title: Sydney Cash interview [sound recording] / with Paul Hollister, BIB ID: 168605).
Paul Hollister, Interviewer
Sydney Cash, Interviewee
Location: Sydney Cash’s studio, White Street, New York, New York
Skylar Smith, Transcriber
Barb Elam and Michelle Jackson-Beckett, Editors
Summary, Natalie De Quarto and Barb Elam
Duration: 123:01
Length: 50 pages

Note: This transcript is based upon an audiotaped recording that has been digitally converted. The recording is part of the Paul M. Hollister Collection at The Rakow Research Library at The Corning Museum of Glass, Corning, New York, and was transcribed at Bard Graduate Center, New York, New York, for the digital exhibition and archive Voices in Studio Glass History: Art and Craft, Maker and Place, and the Critical Writings and Photography of Paul Hollister. Usage requests for all or part of this transcript must be obtained from The Rakow Research Library at The Corning Museum of Glass. 

Paul Hollister often made audio recordings for research purposes in preparation for writing, including interviews with artists and curators, and lectures. The reader should bear in mind that transcriptions of these recordings reflect spoken, rather than written, prose. While every effort was made to be as accurate as possible, the sound quality of the recordings in the Paul Hollister Collection varies greatly. Transcripts have been edited for readability and occasionally condensed. They should serve as a best-effort guide to the original only and not be considered verbatim.

Largely self-taught, American artist Sydney Cash (1941– ) earned his BS in mathematics from Wayne State University in 1965 before coming to New York City. There, he was influenced by the painter and sculptor Ben-Zion, a founding member of the expressionist group “The Ten,” and by the Uruguayan sculptor Gonzalo Fonseca. Though Cash is perhaps best known for his experimentations with slumped-glass sculptural forms, he has worked in a diverse range of media that includes flat glass, mirrors, and found objects. In addition, his paintings on paper have explored pattern and portraiture over the course of his career.

Summary: In this interview, Sydney Cash takes Paul Hollister on a tour of new work in his downtown New York studio in advance of an upcoming exhibition. They discuss his glass-slumped-over-wire assemblages, many including found objects, and the use of color in his work. Cash also explains his slumping process in his hand-constructed kiln and reminisces about his varied career and how his previous experiences influence his current work.

Mentioned: acid etching, Josef Albers, aeronautics, Benheim, boxes, Brooklyn Museum Art School, Central Park, Joseph Cornell, The Corning Museum of Glass, Craft Magazine, Detroit Institute of Arts, Fabulous Fakes antique shop, fiberglass, fire bricks, Gargoyles antique shop, glass threads, Douglas Heller, Hellery Gallery, Ivon Hitchens, Ivan Karp Gallery, kilns, Leo Popper, mathematics, Metropolitan Museum of Art, mirrors, mixed media, New York Times, niello, patterns, planters, Pratt Institute, sculptures, Don Shepherd, slumping, Star of David, suspension, J. M. W. Turner, Wayne State College [formerly Wayne University], Meredith Wenzel, wire

Related asset: Paul Hollister, “Theater in Glass.” American Craft 41, no. 5 (October/November 1981): 26-29.

Paul Hollister (PH): I’m talking with Sydney Cash at his studio on White Street and it is July two, slightly after 4:30 in the afternoon and it’s cool down here in the basement. Is this something new?

Sydney Cash (SC): Yeah. That’s the new piece.

SC: I’ve been doing some drawings, these backdrops for the work.

PH: Mm-hmm. Mmm. Let me just ask you one thing—Paul Stankard called me this morning and he’s, he, but the way he loves the piece [inaudible]

SC: Uh-huh.

PH: And he’s a person that gets all upset over categories—

SC: Uh-huh.

PH: —and he’s trying to figure out at the present moment whether it’s legitimate to make something in glass and use epoxy, and I said that I’d had that problem some years back but that I had resolved it in favor of using epoxy where necessary. And, how do you feel about the use of non-glass materials in glass things because here they’re combined with other, with plaster or whatever so—

SC: Uh-huh. I don’t have any qualms about it. I just think that I have quite a diverse background, so it’s not just from a glass background. For years and years I didn’t use glass and I used a lot of other materials and I’m more interested in a total gestalt of a piece, than the integrity of a certain material. I feel it’s what the whole—it’s what a piece of art will do, what kind of effect it has on meaning or on the viewer, it’s really what’s fundamental to me.

PH: It’s the integrity of the piece itself.

SC: Yeah.

PH: And not what it’s made of.

SC: You know, it could be made out of bones and broken glass and it may be wonderful, you know.

PH: Let me just here—

[recording cuts out and starts again]

PH: Just to comment on this new thing, it bothers me a little bit that the glue shows under the feet of the angel and over on its side.

SC: Well that is put together with hot glue, which kind of pulls apart. This is a mock up.

[PH and SC speak inaudibly over one another]

SC: —I’m working with it, it’s not finished. Generally I don’t like the look of glue and so I usually try to make it unobtrusive.

PH: To show you how it’s going to be—

SC: Yeah it’s still in progress.

PH: Mm-hmm.

SC: And I think the change in position of materials and that kind of glue allows me to pull it apart again and again. And rebuild it.

PH: Let me just describe this piece, it’s a tube like box with a two-story effect, above the second story is a hanging canopy which is also a cloud-like thing but it’s very a Baroque awning, suspended on six points—supposedly just suspended against the sky which is pink cream clouds against a white background and there’s a black, arch-shaped hole down in the left-hand corner and the porcelain angel is standing in front of it. So it’s a very simple piece but it’s a very dramatic piece. It’s a wonderful idea.

SC: That one has a name. Now rarely, rarely do my pieces have names. That one’s called Red Sky, and—

PH: That’s bold [inaudible] exciting.

SC: Well I’ve been thinking a lot of the saying ‘red sky in morning, sailors take warning, red sky at night sailor’s delight,’ and that has a lot of meaning in my life these days and this is one of the pieces of wood. Sometimes pieces of wood seem to be very keyed into what’s going on into my emotional, psychic life.

PH: Hmm.

SC: And this one, this one has been like that.

PH: I like it very much. How do you feel about Joseph Cornell’s things?

SC: Well, sometimes I really love his work. Sometimes; I think I like his work in general. I don’t like all of his work.

PH: This is a lot simpler than most of his things.

SC: Yeah.

PH: To me, it’s more eclectic—

SC: No, the use of glass in the box make it very airy and light and—and that’s something that I usually try playing with, kind of a lightness in my work.

PH: And the awning is absolutely wonderful, or the canopy, whatever you call it.

SC: Yeah, I don’t know whether—

PH: The great, great effect that would be above the altar in a pagan religious painting, and the little wire filaments are embedded in the glass?

SC: Those are, well they’re not even wires, that embedded. Those are mixed glass threads that have been melted into the glass that form the lines.

PH: You mean these are glass thread?

SC: Yeah.

PH: Why do they look like copper?

SC: Well, okay, the supporting ones are wire, I thought you were talking about the, the—

PH: No, I thought they were all part of the same.

SC: No, no, there are supporting wires. But the other things are fiberglass. Glass fiberglass is basically what it was.

PH: And they look just like horsehair.

SC: Uh-huh, and they’re long enough so I can use them. It’s like drawing, sometimes I use them. They become lines for me.

PH: I find that fascinating. Are they embedded in the other glass?

SC: They are—they are melted on.

PH: Cooked, right?

SC: Cooked right on.

PH: That is neat. And this is—

SC: Another one.

PH: —another sky one—

SC: Yeah,  I’m very pleased with the sky in this one.

PH: What is that, a glass back?

SC: Yeah but it’s [inaudible]. This is going to be glued on here, and—

PH: Mm-hmm, mm-hmm, so that you have a light space—

SC: There’s a space and what it does is it diffuses the colors slightly as sky is often diffused.

PH: That’s a beautiful thing. And I’m looking at this one that has the sagged glass, the pantyhose effect that he’s been doing within a vertical circle—

SC: [laughs]

PH: —you don’t call it that?

SC: [inaudible] It doesn’t seem endearing to the work.

PH: It’s just graphic to me to know what it is.

SC: Okay. [laughs]

PH: —but it’s that delicate sagging of the glass, but its stock and colored almost, flesh-toned color. And then the blue sky in the background, but it is also elevated, it’s sitting above the basement of the piece really.

SC: Yeah, you know I treated—

PH: This is a nice scale.

SC: Yeah, there’s a lot of space around it. The space is generous.

PH: And the green edge of the glass gives it a nice color, too. It’s beautiful with the blue and the pink, isn’t it?

SC: Yeah.

PH: And that shows when you’ve put the front on that shows space, doesn’t it, that green is still visible.

SC: Mm-hmm.

PH: I’ll tell you what The Corning Museum of Glass [The Corning Museum of Glass, Corning, New York] did for its exterior, it has a green, plate-glass band that runs around the whole thing.

SC: I haven’t been up to the museum.

PH: And it’s just, of course, it’s just exactly that green.

SC: Mm-hmm. I think that, more and more, I’ll be working with several levels of work. I’ve done that before but it seems challenging again to work that way.

PH: You’ve got a show in October.

SC: Yeah.

PH: So you’ve got plenty of time to do things.

SC: Mmm, not so much—

PH: Not so much.

SC: —not so much time, a lot of the work is already done. At least half the work for the show already.

PH: What do you consider a good amount of time to get ready?

SC: Oh, I think six to nine months is necessary for a show. You know, a year itself makes it easier.  It’ll have been almost a year since my last show, and I feel like out of a year’s work I can really pick a good show, a really good show.

PH: Yeah.

SC: You know, it’s less than six months and the pressure is too much for me.

[. . .]

PH: Well, I think these are quite lovely. I like the older ones that were really concentrating on the glass form and not so much with no competition from the background, but I find these, I think even better now that you’ve got the other form down so well, that you’d almost get to a point where you’d say, ‘Okay, now what do we do?’ And this is what you’re doing.

SC: Yeah, yeah.

PH: It’s an advance over the other one I think. That’s a beautiful one. And you have several of those I guess.

SC: Well, there’s always work sitting around. You wanna take—there’s some work up on the—

PH: Yeah. I’d like to see [pause for eight seconds while work is retrieved]. This one is shaped like a doghouse and the sagged form is green, nice and grassy, mossy green, also elevated about two inches on a glass stage above the bottom of the piece against a delicate, blue sky that looks almost spray-painted but it isn’t, I guess.

SC: Yeah, it isn’t.

PH: It’s softer than spray paint. It doesn’t have that artificial look that spray paint does. And then the doghouse has been boxed in on the front with this clear glass square and then sprayed with a white paint, in a snow-like, fog-like effect which is a nice way of screening it off.

SC: That is a commission from someone who is a builder and in some way I wanted to relate to who he was and that’s one reason why it was, rather than just a rectangular box it became more of a house form.

PH: Yes, I was wondering whether you’d put in a hip roof to compensate for the lack of the circle for instance.

SC: Oh, the wire in the interior kind of form?

PH: The wire which gives it its own arch on the other pieces.

SC: It’s a nice shape to me, the form—that house-shaped scene, it’s very simple. To me it almost looks like a children’s block shape and in a sense, this interior definition on the front panel relates to that wire form. You know, it kind of defines the space related to the piece.

PH: Mmm, mmm, mmm.

SC: Because  I ended up putting in the rectangle and it did that to the space and it since charged it and defined it.

PH: Without that it would have looked rather empty, it would have floated in there—

SC: Yes, it becomes a little too big—

PH: —[inaudible] space, yeah. [pause for seven seconds] Very nice, a little bit up on the left isn’t it—

SC: I’m not sure what you mean.

PH: The top line looks a little higher in relation to this and that—

SC: Mmm—

PG: —Not much, but a little. But it’s a beautiful color green, are these Kugler colors?

SC: Image courtesy of Habatat Galleries, Royal Oak, Michigan.Are they what?

PH: Kugler colors?

SC: No, I don’t know what they are. They’re just, they’re glass—

PH: Bottles?

SC: —yeah, not no—this is sheet glass that I work from.

PH: Hmm.

SC: You know it’s some kind of sheet glass that I pick up here or there.

PH: Where do you get green sheet glass?

SC: Well, you got to look [laughs] I spend a good deal of time looking for glass.

PH: You mean in all the glass you have is found?

SC: Oh no, no, no I buy it, you know.

PH: You get some of this from people like Bendheim [New York, New York] and—

SC: Sometimes from people who are glass dealers, sometimes from old buildings, from antique stores, from glass dealers, commercial architectural glass dealers—

PH: How do you know how the glass is going to slump?

SC: I don’t. Sometimes I know the glass, sometimes I don’t. So I experiment and found out what it’ll do—

PH: And these are experiments?

SC: These are experiments, some of them sit around for years, you know, and I have a sense of what they’ll do sometimes, and I just keep looking at them. And from time to time the form will have meaning, and I’ll work with it.

PH: Mmm. It’s fascinating when you see them without all of the, without all being set up, so that they’re just standing there, melting, but arrested in motion. That one particularly—

SC: Uh-huh, yeah—

PH: So delicate, that expansion.

SC: The timing has been important and if I overdo it by a minute I can end up having just a puddle, basically, of glass, you know if I’m not, [inaudible] and some of these pieces have been overdone to a point where I can look at them, but I can’t really do much with them—

PH: Mm-hmm. You can’t bring that back—

SC: No.

PH: You’d just have to melt it all up.

SC: Yeah, it’s just too fragile. But it’s interesting to look at, here, but I couldn’t really do too much with it as a piece.

PH: That’s a nice one. [pause for five seconds] Now this you seem to be getting a different shape here—

SC: Well, I experiment and, you know, it’s another form—

PH: It’s beautiful.

SC: Rather than a trifold—it’s—I don’t have a name for it yet, but, it’s another form that I’ve been working with and developing. Now this form is the same way as the one in the box, but on a different scale.

PH: Mmm.

SC: And so it shifts. It hangs differently, it falls differently.

PH: How did you get to the point of doing these?

SC: Well, about 10 or 11 years ago what I was doing is I was bending sheet glass for mirrors. I was making curved mirrors and I would over-bend them and I’d have these mistakes. I was using wires and I ended up developing forms and I put all the mistakes aside and six months later I looked at the mistakes and said, ‘Boy, look at this stuff.’ And that kind of led me on to working with form in a new way.

PH: Were you working for somebody when you were making these?

SC: No, I was just—

PH: —kind of a funhouse mirrors that distort?

SC: Do you want to see what that—

PH: Mmm, sure.

[recording stops and starts again]

PH: Oh yeah, but that purposefully creased that—

SC: Right, right, and I was using wires to do that.

PH: Hmm. You would buy a mirror and then you would—

SC: No, there was sheet glass, bent, and then mirrored after they were bent.

PH: You mirrored them?

SC: No, I had somebody doing it for me. There used to be people in the neighborhood who did that stuff. There aren’t any more.

PH: Were you here when Leo Popper was here?

SC: Yeah, I used to get a lot of things from Leo Popper, yeah, he has good stuff.

[noises, presumably moving work to show PH]

PH: Yeah, this is a mirror that has been slumped—is that the right term, slumped?

SC: Yeah.

PH: It has peaks, it breaks up the pattern completely.

SC: And what I was really interested in initially was the visual imagery and the movement in it and later on I became really more interested in the form of the glass.

PH: Mmm. Was that for painting, or—

SC: Um—

PH: —fascinating what it does to it—a kaleidoscope effect.

SC: There were lots of things that I ended up being able to do with this stuff, and I did it for nine months or so, you know, that’s what my passion was at that time.

PH: But you made boxes?

SC: Yeah, I would make frames—box frames for them.

[sounds, presumably retrieving work for PH]

SC: Here, I got it. But then they got to be more—form—

PH: Yes, this one that is really, it’s a sculptural relief or intaglio and relief, indented on both sides—

SC: —yeah. Mm-hmm.

PH: You sag that into a mold?

SC: I made molds, yeah.

PH: Is it that much thinner on the side part than the rest of it?

SC: Yeah, there—

PH: This is the cake tin principle—

[both SC and PH laugh]

PH: A muffin tin, principle.

SC: Right.

PH: But that’s quite a fascinating one.

SC: Yeah.

PH: And then you went over it with old ugly and gave it that lovely patina. This is a piece of intaglio relief sculpture really, isn’t it?

SC: Mm-hmm.

PH: And yet it’s a mirror piece of it—

SC: It was just a double thick glass, is all it was.

PH: That’s a nifty one. And you cooked that in the kiln that you’ve got back there?

SC: Yeah, well it was another one that I had.

PH: A bigger one?

SC: I changed some of my kilns at times. I sometimes use colored glass and stuff, you know, but that was what got me into it, initially.

PH: Now there’s one over here that has flowers, old carnations sitting in it—

SC: Well, this is just something I looked at.

PH:  A flower holder.

SC: Yeah. I’m very interested in flowers and plants and I’ve done some planters—some of these things, they make fabulous planters, that—

PH: Mmm.

SC: I have some stuff at home, they’re just gorgeous because the glass is so beautiful and when there’s green plants growing out of it, it’s really wondrous.

PH: Are they that delicate?

SC: Generally not as delicate as that, but often pretty delicate.

PH: And yet this is probably fairly strong?

SC: That’s pretty strong, yeah. It’s just the shape itself is strong. This was just something that was kind of a mistake, but it had something interesting, and I often have flowers here, so I just put that in to see what it would look like.

PH: Yeah, combination flower stand, pen holder, desk—[SC laughs]. That’s an interesting one, too. With the six points—

SC: —that’s [inaudible] with the Star of David on it—

PH: Yeah.

SC:  I’ve done a lot of work with Star of Davids and with crosses, they’re interesting to me.

PH: How long have you been doing this sort of glass?

SC: Well, off and on 10 years.

PH: But you didn’t show it?

SC: Not at Heller Gallery [New York, NY]. But in 1971 I had a show in SoHo at an Ivan Karp gallery of glass sculpture.

PH: Hmm.

SC: I often photograph here.

PH: Mmm. That’s nifty. Yes, now this is a translucent stocking color—pink color one. Sitting up on a little triangular platform, suspended from the back of a cube box. Right directly above, two inches above, another triangular form that comes out that is a stamped special window glass with a star-shaped pattern and a back—is the back a reflection of it?

SC: No the back is also that same kind of patterned glass.

PH: Okay, but behind, well it looks as if it’s behind something and it’s a different color anyway.

SC: Ahh—

PH: You’re not getting the green iron—

SC: —you don’t see as much as the green—

PH: —yeah—

SC: —because we’re more at an angle, you see—you get more, it’s wider—

PH: —it’s very strange and wonderful isn’t it?

SC: Yeah, there—it’s hard to even, the pattern is exciting because, I don’t know it’s almost like it’s scintillating what’s going on—and it’s hard to look at that piece because there’s so much there. I imagine the light’s strong too [laughs]

PH: Also, the lights are so goddamn bright. Let me put my dark glasses on.

[both PH and SC speak at the same time inaudibly]

PH: Yeah, that’s wonderful. It’s really, this sort of thing is really a three-dimensional painting, isn’t it? It’s a painting with objects and so forth—

SC: Mm-hmm.

PH: To me it’s a winter scene.

SC: It’s—very much so, it was in fact that was made during the winter. I had just spent an afternoon in snow-covered Central Park, and I came home and the backdrop came in which is very much what you’re picking up.

PH: Yeah. It’s one of those images in the distance in winter. Do you know the paintings of Ivon Hitchens, Englishman?

SC: Not—not—

PH: You oughta sometime come over, and I’ll show some of his catalogues—

SC: Yeah?

PH: I-V-O-N. Hitchens.

SC: Is that English?

PH: Yeah, I think he’s the greatest landscape painter since [J. M. W.] Turner, but, I think the paintings would interest you to look at—

SC: Mm-hmm.

PH: I’ll just say no more.

SC: Okay, oh you know another interesting aspect on that is rather the supporting base of that is not a rectangle, but it’s a triangle which follows the pattern of the—in the sense that the metal support of this, it’s not supported from the back, it’s supported from underneath.

PH: When you show it?

SC: Just like that, in the sense that the supporting unit there—that’s what it is.

PH: Oh, oh I see, yeah. The supporting unit projecting from the wall is also a triangle so it carries it and it doesn’t show where the clear glass of the bottom is, right?

SC: Mm-hmm, yeah.

PH: That’s what you’re saying to me. And, another interesting thing about it is the relationship of the circle to the triangle coming out, gives it a curious sort of squashed, flat look—right in here, see how it sort of flattens out, it makes the circle look flat now.

SC: Uh-huh. When this is shown it really should be a little higher, you know, it should be higher if you step back—

PH: You mean the circle should be made a little ovaler?

SC: Well no, it’s just, you’ll be able to see it when the box itself is raised—

PH: Yeah, yeah.

SC:  You know, it’ll make more sense—

PH: —at this point, it’s—it’s getting messed up with the—

SC: Right, it’s caught in the lines of that.

PH: —yeah—

SC: You know, it’s very important the height at which this stuff is shown—

PH: —that’s a beautiful thing. And that has those black glass filaments in the end—

SC: Right.

PH: What did you call them?

SC: Fiberglass.

PH: Fiberglass. That really does give it a wonderful texture, it’s like a nervous system inside, isn’t it?

SC: Mm-hmm, mm-hmm.

PH: A capillary system inside, and there’s zig zag, they’re fractured and they’re almost like an etched line, quite wonderful. Ooo, they’re a nice cool blue. Kind of a dead cobalt, it doesn’t go all the way up in the glass, does it?

SC: No it doesn’t, it’s just on one side, and it’s pulled through.

PH: And what’s the scoring?

SC: It’s just something that I have been doing—I also do a lot of calligraphy, and it’s somehow related to that.

PH: Oh I see, it fills in the gap where the charcoal doesn’t go—

SC: It charges the space—right.

PH: Yeah, I got it, it’s wires, too is it?

SC: No, you put your finger on it, it’s etched lines in the glass—

PH: Mmm. It’s wonderful how dark they look—is this the glasscutter?

SC: It’s a diamond point and it’s filled in with paint.

PH: Yeah, that reminds me of the niello work that you used to see from the Middle Ages on filling in the silver.

SC: Uh-huh.

PH: —with niello, it’s the same kind of thing, but you can’t write niello for The [New York] Times, they call you—

[recording stops and starts again]

PH: Or when you were first trying this and nothing was happening and what else you were doing and so forth—

SC: You mean what I was starting out with my work and what was going on?

PH: Yeah, just a quick rundown.

PH: You know, you tried this, but nobody would give it the time of day, so you put it away for five years, that sort of thing.

SC: Okay, something like that did happen. I did have a show and sold some work and got a little something, but I really wasn’t ready to take on some sense of what the art world was, and I had a difficult time with the gallery, and I was unhappy. I didn’t enjoy the whole process of the show. I had too much romantic imagery about what it was to be an artist.

PH: With painting, or?

SC: No, well, this was glass sculpture—the first one-man show I had was glass sculpture in ’71.

PH: Hmm.

SC: And, I came back here afterwards, and I started working with all the broken pieces I had, and  I used cruder, ruder stuff and spent the next four, five years really, learning a tremendous amount, experimenting a great deal, and using a lot of other different materials besides glass. In 1971 glass didn’t have as much acceptance in the art world, and I personally didn’t have enough depth as an artist to be so sure of myself. Also one of the things I’ve started doing is drawing a great deal over the last 10 years. I think I’ve spent a lot of time drawing, that’s been very, very important. One can develop much more rapidly with much less self-consciousness in two dimensions, especially when you’re doing a lot of things and not worrying about selling them.

PH: Mmm.

SC: I’m sure I know that everybody when they’re selling work has to struggle to dissipate the marketplace, because if you work with the marketplace in your mind, you’re working for them and you’re not working for yourself and you start to not be satisfied with what you’re doing in the way that is important for an artist to be self-sustaining with the work. For me, good work nourishes me. It nourishes my soul, my heart; what it’s done over the years, it’s given me the strength to continue, you know, it’s given me the psychic nourishment to go on with work even when nobody wanted it. At least it was satisfying, it was the work I should be—I was supposed to be doing. So, okay, you know, and during a lot of those years I did all kinds of jobs—everything. I did plumbing, electrical, carpentry, any kind of renovation fix up stuff. I learned a lot about tools and materials. I took on jobs that I didn’t know how to do, and I learned how to do them after I had the job.

PH: [laughs] In a hurry.

SC: Well, I learned how to learn—

PH: Yeah.

SC: You know, if I have a real ability in my hands and when I was put in a situation where I had to know how to do something, I found out where to learn how to do it, either from other people or from books or by experimenting. Often I’d have a job and I’d do it, and at least I knew when it wasn’t right so I could take it apart [laughs] and do it again, do it over. And I had enough integrity to not leave it in a half-ass state so that even though it didn’t look like what union people might have been doing, I had a good aesthetic so it looked good and it worked. And it was oftentimes ingeniously made to work, but that’s part of what I can do.

PH: Mmm.

SC: I also bought and sold antiques. I worked at flea markets with my children a lot, I used to find things around here that when the neighborhood was in transition and sell a lot of industrial, factory things at flea markets. Sometimes I taught at Brooklyn Museum Art School [New York], I taught at the Pratt Institute [Brooklyn, New York], once—you know, for a lot of years I wasn’t even pursuing galleries, I was just doing my work and I’d apply once in a while for a grant and sometimes I’d go to a little gallery.

PH: Did you get a grant?

SC: Never got a grant.

PH: Yeah, neither did I.

SC: Yeah—

PH: While you’re up, get me a grant—[SC laughs]—it’s my motto.

SC: Right. You know, I don’t feel bad about what happened because, it seems like the right thing to do is to just keep working and, I always had the feeling that ultimately real perseverance and integrity pays off, in some way, even if isn’t selling work, it, it suffices to nourish in your life—

PH: Mmm.

SC: —and sometimes that’s all an artist can get, is that kind of personal nourishment and also a lot of times it was a way for me to deal with the things that went on in my life. I think that, when I did drawings and I had them at home, oftentimes I’d get up in the middle of the night—early in the morning, late at night, I would work and it became very close to my inner-life, a lot of the drawings. And that is, that was very profound for me as an artist to have, to learn how to tap into that. I did a lot of work with portraits, did a lot of portraiture. That was also very important because it made me less self-involved in the relationship with a piece of art because—it was me, a piece of art, and another person. And the development of the piece of art depended primarily on my relationship with that other person that was there. I couldn’t draw any more than they’d let me see of them. You know, whatever ability I had to see and draw, it was influenced by the psychic relations that went on between the artist and the model. And, I think a lot of the work that I do, they’re entities in themselves.

PH: Do you give them titles, generally? Or—

SC: Generally not—

PH: Does it have numbers, or something?

SC: Generally they get titles when they’re in the gallery. [laughs] The people in the gallery want to have a way to refer to them.

PH: Yeah.

SC: Sometimes a work has a title, usually the ones that are very meaningful to my life get titles because they’re involved with something that’s going on in my life—

PH: Like that wintery one, maybe?

SC: Yeah, that one doesn’t have a title, this one has a title because it has to do with, I have a sense of dealing with, my relationship of dealing with life’s problems seems easier in some ways, like ‘red sky in morning sailors take warning’ while the red sky seems in some ways seems, like, everybody has problems go on in their life, you know, burdens and I just feel like I’m at a point where I am able to handle problems a little bit easier. I don’t seem so afraid of the problems I have in my life right now, and, sometimes I really enjoy them. You know,  I have two teenage children [laughs] who provide me with wonderful problems.

PH: Mmm.

SC: And I have an ex-wife who does her share, I have a girlfriend who provides for me [laughs] And there’s, you know, friends and family to take care of—and doing that kind of thing, and also I think just personally, sometimes I enjoy that. I enjoy being able to do it and to, to take care of things well—it’s very pleasing to me. You know, it makes me feel good.

PH: Yeah, I’m enjoying my problems more as time goes on. I know they are—here’s this one back again—

SC: [laughs] Right.

PH: Like old friends.

SC: Uh-huh.

PH: But, you did some, did you do things—any like this? How long ago?

SC: There’s some work 10 years ago that was—it’s something like that. I can show you a piece in the other room.

PH: And it just sort of sat?

SC: Well, was that shown? No, I don’t that there is one in the other room that wasn’t ever shown like, it was shown in the show at Gallery 2 a couple years ago—

PH: Mm-hmm.

SC: —that’s kind of a retrospective—

PH: Yes.

SC: —of 10 years of work.

PH: Yes.

SC: There was one, there was like two boxes on top of each other and I—I’ll have to show it to you it had a lot of blue things hanging down.

PH: There’s one thing I wanted to ask you about that show because  I guess that was the first show I’d seen of yours.

SC: Mm-hmm.

PH: It was the first show you had with Heller probably.

SC: Right, right.

PH: —You may have had an individual piece—

SC: There were a couple pieces before—

PH: —and when I saw them, I thought, ‘Oh boy, here’s this stuff and he’s going around and picking up these things off the street and putting them together and so forth, and, a little of this and a little of that,’ and I had a very negative feeling about it until I saw the glass things, there were two or three glass things in there. There was one blue one I remember; I think there was a blue one and then sort of a silvery one. And I thought, ‘Gee, those are wonderful, is he starting to do that now?’ I wondered, because the other things seemed to me to have, they were sort of collages where the things didn’t really fit or sit well together some of them, and I had a very negative reaction about them. And I thought this guy’s just an opportunist, he’s just some young kid who’s a bright kid, he’s 20, 21, 19 or something—

SC: Hmm. Uh-huh.

PH: —and he’s putting these things together and he’s thinking he’s getting away with it here but, really the—they’re kind of meaningless some of the arrangements, and then I saw the glass things and I liked them enough that I said to Doug [Heller], ‘Gee, I hope he does that and I said, ‘Yes he is doing those and he’s starting to do them again.’ I don’t know whether you knew you’d done them before or what, or whether he’d just didn’t mention it to me, and then when I saw the show with several of them there, I thought they were just wonderful. And, I thought, ‘Isn’t that great, he’s out of the woods.’ And then, speaking with Doug one day, he talked to me more in-depth about you and said that you’d been doing these things for years and years and so forth and you had them all around your studio. And that’s when I really got interested in them. And, I could see that you were no, no fly-by-night, but I’m glad I didn’t write a review of that show.

SC: [laughs] Good.

PH: [laughs] Because this is so different—there are people like I’ve just interviewed [Don] Shepherd for a piece in The Times today on him and [Meredith] Wenzel—

SC: Mm-hmm.

PH: —and, the piece was sent in with a terrible typo, and I said “copper and steel wire” and they changed the “copper and” to “bland, B-L-A-N-D.”—

SC: Oh.

PH: —it says “bland steel wire.”

SC: Oof.

PH: —and it meant nothing, he, he must be wondering what happened to be.

SC: Uh-huh. Because, yeah.

PH: But they do that, that happens all the time over there. But—I don’t know, where was I?

SC: Where the work was coming from?

PH: Mmm. Well I didn’t realize you’d been around so long.

SC: Yeah.

PH: This is one of the pinkish slumped ones with many strands, 12 actually, descending from the cup and it’s mounted in front of what looks like a little lacquered tray—

SC: Yeah, that’s what it is.

PH: Black and gold, gold-painted black lacquered tray. It’s a sort of an hors d’oeuvre tray isn’t it?

SC: I don’t know.

PH: I think that’s what it is. But it’s the old kind it’s the papier-mâché—

SC: Yeah.

PH: —lacquered tray I’ll bet you.

SC: Yeah, so—

PH: —and very Turkish. It has little stars. I love the way the thing floats stands out—presents itself out on that surface above the—did your other ones, did your earlier ones, were they also [speaking over SC] suspended above—

SC: Rarely. No.

PH: —they were more down—

SC: —they were just sitting in the bottom of the box, mostly. And at one point when I started doing that it seemed so magical to have it above the bottom.

PH: Yeah, it gives it a, a “look no hands” quality.

SC: Mm-hmm.

PH: The suspension is quite wonderful. Isn’t it interesting what you can do, I mean these things, aside from how difficult they may be to do technically, and tedious, they’re certainly tedious to do and finicky, but, how the illusion of the absolute simplicity is what comes out. I mean they’re like some of those target paintings or those things that, who was it [Josef] Albers that did of the different color relationships within bands of color?

SC: Mm-hmm.

PH: I mean they’re simple, but they’re very complex actually, but they give the appearance of free-floating and total simplicity. That’s why I like them better than Cornell; they’re not so fussy. They present two or three things but out of that there’s so many overtones, that you think of, that come to mind as you look at it. They kind of float like a [inaudibly speaking over SC] psychic medium and stuff.

SC: Even the mounting is something that developed over the years because it always seems such a problem, how do you show work? That small-scale sculpture without one of these big, cumbersome bases—

PH: Mmm.

SC: People pretend isn’t there but really you’ve got a big form with a little form on top. And in the sense this way of presentation seems perfect, you know, when it finally evolved because it’s just floating on the wall too. You know it’s just there, a defined space. And also the boxes, you know, doing a little piece of work with glass, it changes so much depending on what the backdrop is, what the color is, you know, like [Josef] Albers paintings are, like the contrast between color and shape. Well, the work changes immensely for me when I change the backdrop. You know, the whole emotional overtone of it, it becomes different and this allows me to really define the emotional overtones of the work, not leave it so much to chance.

PH: That is purposefully standing out from the wall so that it gets light behind.

SC: Mm-hmm. Some of them might do that with—some of them might. Some of the pieces have paint behind, like this one, the backdrop is painted behind it.

PH: Yeah, gives a completely different effect, doesn’t it?

SC: Mm-hmm.

PH: It closes it off. That’s almost like some very special mathematical formula to me that one.

SC: Mmm, well, I think of them sometimes as—

PH: It’s like a theorem or—

SC: —uh-huh, I have a degree in mathematics.

PH: —I’ve hit all the right things.

SC: Yeah, I have a degree in mathematics and at one time I majored in engineering and physics and finally got out in mathematics, but when I went to high school I majored in aeronautics, [laughs] I feel like it all goes into here. You know I don’t have to think about it so much, as it’s just kind of this part of my sensibility.

PH: Would you, maybe have one in which the little glass platform that comes out to support the image in there is not glass but maybe the kind of metal you use to hold the whole thing up on. I was thinking, and this, well, not necessarily this one but take one where you’ve got it white all around on—

SC: Mm-hmm.

PH: —the outside. If this thing were white or if the edge were white it might almost be invisible, it would be quite interesting.

SC: Okay, that one has an opaque—

PH: Yeah—

SC: —piece, yeah.

PH: But that has a lot of stuff going on—

SC: Yeah—

PH: —on the bottom back is weird and fascinating. What is it?

SC: The back?

PH: What is the black?

SC: The black is a some kind of black pictured textured glass, and the backdrop is a piece of sandblasted bronze mirror—

PH: Hmm, it’s wonderful looking—

SC: Yeah.

PH: —it’s looks like a torn sheet of paper—

SC: Yeah, a friend of mine was a sandblaster, a commercial sandblaster, cut it out of a big sheet—he saves me his cutouts when he has to cut out a hole and that’s some more of that black. It’s another one of those little angels—

PH: —another angel and in wonderful broken—now you’re breaking the slumping—

SC: Yeah.

PH: It’s artistically broken too—

SC: Well, it was not broken that way on purpose, it’s just, I was mishandling the work one day and I break pieces when I’m either in too much of a hurry—I should be home—I’m tired. So I’ll break a piece. And, but I like that, the sense of what that was, and it got [inaudible] you know, and I’m real pleased with that angel—

PH: Oh I think it’s marvelous against the black.

SC: Yeah, very dramatic.

PH: You’ve got a box of the black glass bottom that’s all—the glass is all mottled and textured and sort of a, well not even egg shell but it looks as if it had been gone over with a wet roller of paint and the bottom and the back are that way and then the broken, slumped form and opaque white glass all cracked and all broken away and then inside emerging from it is the angel which you’ve painted up. Noodled up a little bit with paint—

SC: Well he has, he had a little, they were all painted. They were, some of them I sandblasted a little bit to kick some of the color off—

PH: Oh—

SC: —there was a little bit too—too much color—

PH: —yeah—

SC: —some of them I took the color off completely.

PH: —and then the gold wire running around in spirals is absolutely wonderful—it gets that halo effect—

SC: Mm-hmm.

PH: —that’s a marvelous thing. Hmm, that is great. Hmmmm. Yeah. [pause for five seconds] It would be interesting to see how that looked with a black side.

SC: You know one of the things that might work with a black side, some of them though, when—if I cover up the sides I take away a lot of the light—

PH: Oh, I mean you wouldn’t think of doing it with that, and—

SC: —yeah—

PH: —I wonder how it would look with that, it would have made it look really quite rich.

SC: Mm-hmm, mm-hmm, hmm.

PH: Because, what is, what is the clear view add to it, really?

SC: I don’t know, it’s an interesting thought.

PH: Do you have a little sheet of black [inaudible]?

[recording stops and starts again]

PH: [inaudible].

SC: It reticulated, the glass reticulated on the surface a little bit. It’s a kiln effect.

PH: As if it had been lying on sand or—

SC: Yeah.

PH: Oh, that’s—that’s hot. Boy, that’s it.

SC: Hmm.

PH: God, I mean it has that altar look and sanctuary and it was coming right out at you. Because it’s so powerful, the black is so powerful—

SC: Yeah.

PH: —that when you have the empty sides it sort of, deletes it.

SC: Well, that’s real interesting. I’ll have to pull it out and do both sides.

PH: That’s fascinating. See all those cave-y distances it gives in there?

SC: Yeah, the little sparkles off of the reflections on that black are really nice.

PH: Have you done one with mirrored sides?

SC: No, I don’t think so. Not in anything recent.

PH: I like that form, too. That, accordion kind of form.

SC: Uh-huh. Yes, I’m still struggling with how to make that meaningful. Yeah, I don’t know—It’s been sitting there for a year or two. I don’t know what’ll happen with that. This one I’m quite pleased with, and this has in its final form a large wire circle that goes around the—

[recording cuts out and starts again]

SC: —base of the piece, farther than—

PH: Yeah, yeah, it’s the nucleus of something bigger—

SC: Mm-hmm.

PH: Well, I think they’re just great. That’s an interesting one, too.

SC: Yeah, this has been sitting around for a year. I had it at this point and I’m still waiting—

PH: It’s a little Hollywood somehow—

SC: —yeah, you know, sometimes I just get to a certain point that I don’t know what to do with them afterwards.

PH: Now tell me something about where you slump these—is that that kiln in there?

SC: Yeah, that base kiln I made and—

PH: And yet it’s just sitting on a desk?

SC: Yeah, well it’s that deep of insulation, of fire brick.

PH: Mm-hmm.

SC: And, this has got [inaudible] something that’s annealing in them. And, basically, it’s just a simple electric kiln. You know.

PH: I’m amazed that the desk supports it.

SC: It takes a long time for the heat to go through, it doesn’t just like [claps] pop through, and—

PH: And you put, how do you—?

SC: I have metal armatures in forms that I wire up, and I put the glass into it and heat it up and watch it, and sometimes move the things with rods or so—

PH: From the outside?

SC: —from through some of the holes and, I have to keep a watch on it at the point where it’s really fluid. Everything is very tenuous. I’m running around making—oh, but sometimes I’ll open up some of these things to—

PH: And you’ve got something annealing in there now?

SC: Well, it’s tough—it’s from yesterday, so it’s mostly cooled off.  In the summer it takes like 36 hours usually to cool off. In the winter it takes less time because it’s colder down here—

PH: Mmm. And this is the fire brick?

SC: Yeah, sometimes I’ll open up a number of these holes because one side is moving faster than another side.

PH: Hmm.

SC: Or I’ll even pull up—the whole top can pop up, I have opened up the top when it’s red hot to stop it—

PH: Mm-hmm.

SC: —because otherwise it’s in such motion that if I don’t cool it off like four or five hundred degrees in a matter of a minute or two, it’s just, it’s a puddle.

PH: Mmm.

SC: Or it becomes formless.

PH: And it takes how long to—?

SC: The whole heating cycle is about an hour and a half and the movement cycle of it is about a half an hour, but it’s the last 10, five minutes that are really crucial. You know where everything splits, because as it gets hotter and hotter the movement starts to go quicker, and it’s at the point where things are really flowing that it has to be caught. You know really catch that flowing movement because the whole basic thing, it may heat up for almost an hour and a half and have moved very little. And, and in the last five minutes [claps] That’s where it’s going, that’s where it’s the hottest point in the movement—

PH: And this draping that it does is its own, that’s entirely it, is it?

SC: Pretty much of its own.

PH: Do you coax things?

SC: I coax things. I have to cut the glass so that it’ll drape in a certain way, string up the wires so that it’ll work in the—

PH: I can visualize with the wires but I can see that you would think maybe this was going to take this shape as it went down, but you couldn’t tell how many folds it was going to make without—

SC: Well, I’m watching it. And also—

PH: You’re watching. You look in here?

SC: Yeah, yeah. You can’t see anything now because but when it’s 1500 degrees, it’s red hot. I’ll show you what I use—

PH: And what about the heat coming out the cracks here?

SC: Well it’s very little. It’s really very little because that’s four inches thick. So there’s very little.

PH: They’re not cemented or anything?

SC: No, that’s what I use to look in. If you look it up—a filament—you can get an idea of what you can see.

PH: Mm-hmm, yeah.

SC: One of the things that I want to do is to make a film of the movement of the glass inside—

PH: Oh, wouldn’t that be—

SC: —it’s so beautiful, and all the different forms have their own kind of special movement and, and, and in fact I’m working on a proposal for the film right now.

PH: Wow, that would be great.

SC: What I want to do is like a five or 10 minute film, very much not a film—a documentary, but very much a choreographed film of movement in space at 1500 degrees.

PH: Mmm.

SC: With scored music for it.

PH: Mmm.

SC: I have a friend of mine who is a filmmaker I want to have doing the shooting and editing of things, and I have two musicians that I have worked with that I want to do the score. So that’s a project after my show is done. That’s where I want to be in my next project.

PH: The musicians are from the days when you were earning your living in a jazz band?

SC: No, [laughs] one of the musicians is my brother, and  the other one—he plays the flute. Another one is a saxophone player who I’ve performed with at times. Sometimes I do some performance things but not too often these days.

PH: [laughs] I love this primitive counterweight. It’s hinged here and it lifts that way—

SC: It’s hinged and it lifts up. One of the things about this neighborhood that was so inspiring were the craftsmen and the workmen in around here. You know, even in this building there were people who had had shops for 40 years, 30 years, you know, esoteric—they did die-cutting of all sorts and it was a one or two man shop and, and it was just full of all kinds of ingenious devices they would make to be able to do a job, and I always loved that. You know, this is the kind of thing with this on here and me looking through and I’ll push this whole thing up to let heat come out and watch as the glass slows down. You know, I think a lot of working with glass is what’s exciting for me is that it’s not a defined medium. It’s very—this is like alchemy. You know, taking something and adding form—

PH: Absolutely.

SC: —and, it’s even with the heat process. And, it’s very exciting, even though I get to look at it at 1500 degrees inside, I don’t have much time to contemplate it at that time.

PH: Is that Fahrenheit or Centigrade?

SC: Fahrenheit. You know, when I come back the next day or two and I can take it out of the kiln, it’s like, ‘Oh, let me see what it really looks like,’ you know, I’ve looked at it for under this intense heat dynamic, and then I get to look at it. Sometimes it’s just wonderful and sometimes it’s, ‘Well, okay, I learned something maybe,’ you know.

PH: In other words you can’t exactly predict, for instance, the difference between this and this one—

SC: —there’s a lot of definition in terms of what I’m setting up, for instance this piece—I’m not pleased with this. And it’s a little bit too—the fold—

PH: It’s all process and no art.

SC: Yeah, that’s what it is, and so it sits around and sometimes I look in it and sometimes when I’m in a quirky mood I may pick it up and think, ‘Well this is bizarre looking and a little weird,’ and I may relate it to something, but it’s been around for a couple years and yet it still has no place. It hasn’t found a home, you know.

PH: It’s a very, very subtle thing. I mean if you did it all day long, nothing but this, you’d come up with so many little variations on the folds for instance—

SC: Yeah, but—

PH: —and that one it’s [inaudible] is too big.

SC: Uh-huh. [laughs]

PH: Whereas this is just right. You can see through, see from one fold through the other, which is so nice.

SC: Yeah, yeah.—

PH: That transparency is very pretty, isn’t it?

SC: Yeah, it works very well. This is one that I’m very pleased with that I haven’t—[pause for four seconds] This has a nice transparency.

PH: This is an aqua, transparent aquamarine.

SC: And that, I’ve worked with that a number of times and yet, I know at some point I’ll find the right relationship of backdrop—something related to a space container, but it takes a lot of time to find the right one.

PH: Now this one basically you’ve got the four squares don’t you, four or three or—

SC: This is kind of like a diamond, it’s—

PH: —yeah. But it’s wonderful seeing through that and seeing through this with what looks a little dark, this flesh tone looks a little dark.

SC: That in there with the black behind it—

PH: With the black behind it.

SC: —the light though will lighten, the light lightens it up—

PH: Oh yeah.

SC: —it has that kind of a softness that captures the light.

PH: Yeah, it’s really quite wonderful. Did you find that on the street, too?

SC: That, no I bought that at a flea market.

PH: Nice.

SC: Yeah, I just had a good feeling about it and—

[tape stops and skips; inaudible voices in background]

SC: When I was a child in elementary school I took classes at the Detroit Institute of Arts [Michigan] on Saturday, and in college I took a few art courses but—one of my apprenticeships was I had a shop called Gargoyles in the Village for about five or six years where I made antique reproductions.

PH: Oh really?

SC: Yeah, I’ll show you, I have one of them up here—

PH: Fabulous Fakes [name of store].

SC: Well it was very much at that time and I was like in some sense a competitor of theirs and, it was good in a sense for me that I did a lot of looking and a lot of making. I think of that as an apprenticeship. At that point I also started doing a lot of mirror work and there’s a few pieces over here from that time.

PH: Mmm.

SC: Yeah.

PH: Yeah, we bought some, a couple of pieces from them, that was on Sixth Avenue downstairs, was that the one you were—?

SC: Sixth Avenue downstairs was my place.

PH: —oh that was the place, that’s where I got the thing that I got—

SC: What do you have?

PH: —it’s a child with a basket of food on its head.

SC: —oh right, yeah, I made that.

PH: Nicely painted.

SC: Yeah the Cash.

PH: Yeah, isn’t that great?

SC: [laughs]

PH: Unsigned.

SC: Unsigned.

PH: And they had gargoyles and they had heads of various things. There was one on Christopher Street—

SC: Yeah, right—

PH: I think that was the one that was called Fabulous Fakes.

SC: Well, Fabulous Fakes was over on Third Avenue.

PH: —Third Avenue? Yeah, about 19th Street.

SC: Right, right, that was that one.

PH: That’s where we didn’t buy, but we looked.

SC: Uh-huh.

[recording stops and starts again]

PH: [PH speaks to himself into recorder] Just reminiscing, last Monday, June 28th was an interesting day. I received a call from Craft Magazine—finally gotten up off their duff and decided they wanted me to do a long article, 1500 to 2000 words, and they weren’t fussy within that range—I could use my own discretion—on Sydney Cash, which delighted me, And I called Sydney and he said fine, and we set up the interview which precedes this present talk on this tape. And then I got a call from my publisher, from Jane West, my editor, and I told her that I could do a substantial revision of the book and she said great, I’ll put it through with Nat Wartels and get back to you on it.

[. . .]

I walked uptown after lunch and went to the Metropolitan [Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, New York] where I had an appointment with Nonnie Frelinghuysen to identify a couple of weights on view in the gallery of the American Wing where the glass is. I looked at them, we got them out of the case, she showed me how the cases open and we got out and handled and returned several pieces of glass and it was a very pleasant thing and there were no guards around and no pedestrians. It’s just a great way to look in the quietness of the gallery and the stillness of the gallery and the sunlight came in and rained down on the whole thing at an angle which made the glass look just beautiful; it brought out the lights of the clear glass and the colors of the colored glass. And then I left there and passed Heller Gallery on my way home and they had already gotten the word from Sydney Cash that I was doing the interview with him and they were all set up over that, and then I got home. So it was a really pleasant day all-in-all.

[recording stops and starts again]

PH: This is July 13th—Monday, July 13th and I’m finishing up that interview with Sydney Cash.

[recording stops and starts again]

PH: —the chief thing I got from you was that I felt you were not happy with the work you were doing, you felt that you really didn’t know, understand glass.You were unable to do what you wanted to do with it or you didn’t really know what you wanted to do with it.

SC: At the end of the show, I was. I felt like my expectations of what was going to happen with this show were unrealistic, as an artist—

PH: You mean it didn’t sell as well as it—?

SC: I don’t know. You know, I don’t know what it was exactly—

PH: It didn’t look right, or?

SC: Yeah, I wasn’t as happy with the way the show was set up. I didn’t have as much control as I wanted over the show. I didn’t sell as much as I would have liked to, I wasn’t famous and rich, you know—

PH: —you know that’s good, not famous and rich. [pause for three seconds] That’s very good, that puts it in a much more—humorous light—

SC: Uh-huh. But, also there was the sense that if I was really going to do some worthwhile work that there was a lot I needed to learn. Because I had this show that was going on—

PH: —this is not a personal scuttlebutt kind of an art, you were very interested in your development as an artist—

SC: Yeah—

PH: So you felt you needed to learn things—and you wanted to sort of rethink it all—

SC: I came back here and started working with broken objects instead of broken glass and trying to re-assemble things. That’s where I wound up doing a lot of assembling of objects.

PH: Other than glass?

SC: Or combined with glass. Other than glass and combined with glass. I had the feeling like the glass that I was dealing with was too precious, too fragile, too something like that, you know, there wasn’t—it didn’t have enough strength at that time. That’s what I felt that I was lacking, and—

[recording stops and starts again]

PH: Yup.

SC: Part of it is dealing with the whole art world was a relatively new experience to me. Or, the art gallery scene. And, I had been intimidated by it, I felt like I was manipulated, you know, I didn’t know how to handle all the parameters of what that meant and too many things came up where I didn’t know what I was supposed to do, you know, or what I really wanted because I wasn’t sure of all the possibilities. And as a young artist that’s a very common [laughs]—

PH: It is. Yeah, it is.

SC: Yeah.

PH: But you had some art training you said, early in the schools as a kid.

SC: Well, yes, but not in the sense of being an artist.

PH: You’ve gotten a math degree instead of a fine arts degree.

SC: Yeah, you know I didn’t think of myself as an artist at all until 1970 when I was beginning to—before that I’d been a craftsman. I had a made antique reproductions, and there was a great sense of craftsmanship about that, not so much art, but then I started doing a lot of mirror things, and 1970 was a good time to change who I’m [inaudible] sense about what life is about.

PH: In other words you did the Gargoyle stuff before that.

SC: Yeah, I spent—

PH: Late sixties?

SC: Yeah, sixties and, from like ’64 to ’70 I did that.

PH: Do you have a bio? Do you have a sheet with some statistics?

[recording stops and starts again]

PH: Where’d you go to college?

SC: Wayne University in Detroit.

PH: Is that Wayne State?

SC: Now it’s Wayne State, it was Wayne University when I went there.

PH: Okay, so we’ll call it Wayne University.

SC: Uh-huh.

PH: Okay and you had a math degree there.

[recording stops and starts in mid-sentence]

SC: —dance at that time and I even did some performance, a few performances and movement has always been an important aspect of my work—I think of even these little boxes it’s important to not stay in one spot because as you move around—the whole image of what it is inside changes a bit. You know, I say also that the sense of what it is as to whether you’re three feet or five feet or 10 feet away, the whole relationship changes.

PH: I’m just thinking out loud, it’d be nice if you could have, you know those, holes that press up against the ceiling and the floor—

SC: Mm-hmm.

PH: —people used to use for bookcases and that kind of stuff. You could have four of those, like a column that just nothing but the edging and put one on each so that you could walk 360 degrees around—

SC: Uh-huh.

PH: —around the four related pieces say and get quite a different view or maybe just one. And really walk around it.

SC: The closest thing I’ve done to that is last year I did a lot of hanging sculpture. A lot of full scale, which may mean it’s like my size pieces, that was hung from wires and either it moved or you moved—

PH: Mmm, mmm.

SC: —the pieces. There are a number in the other room of that—

PH: Are you going to have anything like that?

SC: I don’t think I’m going to have any of that in the show. I have to focus in—

PH: Yeah, one thing is enough.

SC: —yeah.

PH: Okay.

[recording stops and starts again]

PH: This discussion was in relation to my image of the mirrors moving. [pause for seven seconds] When did you do all those odd jobs? The wiring, and all that stuff.

SC: This was after the show that I had to earn a living again.

PH: Immediately?

SC: Immediately. [PH laughs]

SC: And I did some substitute teaching, which was terrible. And somebody offered me a job in there, a friend of mine offered a job to build a room in her apartment cause she needed an editing room. And I don’t know, somehow that led to a lot of jobs, ideas, and people like the work that I did, and people like the sense of improvisation to the work. Everybody who wants something built has all these different criteria of how they wanted it to work, and I listened to people and often came up with very creative and ingenious solutions to what would satisfy their needs, and so people were usually very, very happy with the work that I did, which meant that they would call on me again or they’d refer me to friends, and, you know I kept—

PH: And that’s during the seventies?

SC: That was, yeah, during the seventies.

PH: And when did you teach at Brooklyn and Parsons [Parsons School of Design, New York, New York]?

SC: Oh, I started teaching I think in ’72 at Brooklyn Museum Art School [Brooklyn, New York]. And taught there till ’75.

PH: Good, and Parsons?

SC: And, not at Parsons—Pratt [Pratt Institute, Brooklyn, New York].

PH: Pratt, okay.

SC: I taught at Pratt, maybe ’73 to ’74.

PH: I want to look at that counterweight thing. You had a lever, when we talked about it. I think it was a lever. Yeah, it’s that thing there, that, that opens the lid. That opens the top of the kiln.

SC: Mm-hmm.

PH: Okay, and it’s just wires with a heavy hunk of iron—

SC: [inaudible] machinery part—

PH: —machinery part, yeah, hanging to counterbalance it, and stuck in the ceiling which may or may not hold it.

SC: Oh, it’s into the beam, I’m very careful about those aspects of what I do.

PH: Okay. And what’s the little kiln?

SC: It’s just for smaller pieces of work and then when the top lifts up, it isn’t counterbalanced in the sense that I just—

PH: You can just pull the top off.

SC: It’s hinged even, you know it’s just a hinge top—

PH: Yeah I can see that. And you just pile those bricks on there?

SC: Basically that’s all.

PH: Do they never have cement for those things?

SC: Well, you know, this allows me to change it, I’ll change this around to make it more adaptable to what I’m doing. When people buy kilns they’re no different than this except that they have to be shipped, so they have to be—

PH: Have bands around them—

SC: —have bands around them or something, you know, and glued together, but I put it together and wired it as I was putting it together—

PH: Can I look through one of those holes?

SC: Yeah.

PH: It’s not in use now is it?

SC: No, you can’t really see anything in there. It’s all dark and there’s nothing set up in there.

PH: But there would be just enough space to see if it were light?

SC: Yeah, you can, you know I have hopefully the goggles that I found.

[recording stops and starts again]

PH: That was 27 by 27 in a three brick [inaudible] square.

SC: Probably 27 high too, a little bit more, and yeah [inaudible] 35.

PH: Really? I’d say it was less high than wide—almost the same, but a little less.

SC: Yeah.

[recording stops and starts again]

PH: But I think one general shot of, of that—a nice shot from quite a distance so that we don’t worry about any particular thing would be quite nifty. I think you don’t need that light box but you could, whatever you just stuff in for the moment.

[recording stops and starts again]

SC: You wouldn’t be able to tell anyway.

PH: No, you wouldn’t, but I mean, this thing, stuff something in there and stuff something in another one just so it makes a nice shot.

SC: I don’t, I don’t like the shots, I—just cause—when you’re going to reduce that down to this size—

PH: That’s right, it’s going to look—

SC: —it’s going to look more like a pattern. It’s going to be a pattern shot, you know what I mean? Stand back here.

PH: Yeah, absolutely.

SC: It’s just a pattern—

PH: —that’s right, it looked like a bad patchwork quilt.

SC: Uh-huh.

PH: Which is just right.

SC: Okay.

PH: With all the shadows and everything, it’s a very dramatic little piece of, it’s just—

SC: Okay, I hear what you’re saying—

PH: —it’s your filing cabinet—

SC: —yeah—

PH: —mental filing cabinet.

SC: Uh-huh.

PH: That’s all. And then we just name a few things like pieces of yarn, spools of yarn, velvet, cloth, obviously glass, silvered glass, and [laughs] tiny little things. Here’s a little creature in a little ceramic standing in a ceramic window playing the violin or something. I can’t see it at this distance. That’s wonderful. And, a thing that looks like an amusement park game of some kind—bone—

SC: Bones and horns—

PH: —and wadded up metal—ceramic flowers—

SC: The back of a turtle I ate one time.

PH: —the back of a turtle he ate one time. Part of an old firehouse hose nozzle, and so forth—

SC: —[inaudible]

PH: —yeah, I’ll just make up things. Mm-hmm, okay. That’s the inside of base—outdoor baseball—

SC: [inaudible talking over PH] but I played with this baseball when I was a kid—

PH: Okay, that’s good, that’s very good. There’s part of a human skull—the very top of a skull. Well it’s a wonderful Cabinet of Dr. Caligari.

SC: Uh-huh. This is one of the paintings I was telling you about.

PH: Yeah, that’s nice. God, what a claymore that is. It’s like those old medieval claymores [PH probably meant a flail here, not a claymore].

SC: I don’t know, what’s a claymore?

PH: A claymore is, is one of those things. Sometimes it’s a big weapon with the spikes on the end.

SC: Uh-huh, hmm.

PH: Sometimes they have them on the end of chains and they—

SC: Uh-huh, that’s the lightning—originally it was a lightning attractor. That section—

PH: —really? Yeah, and the other looks like an old—one of the first golf clubs ever made [laughs] British India, and you’ve got a hanging golden ball. The largest [faint musical sound like a plucking string]—

SC: Well that’s part of a whole piece, yeah—

PH: Yeah, with the big iron calipers.

[recording stops and starts mid-sentence]

SC: —’73 and the circle, the partial circle on it though was added maybe nine months ago? I took it out. I was looking at that and somehow I added that section.

[recording stops and starts again]

PH: Large-standing piece number one.

SC: Okay, this is called My Brother’s Keeper.

PH: My Brother’s Keeper.

[recording stops and starts again]

PH: Done in reference to your brother, Leonard.

SC: Yeah.

PH: How come?

SC: Well, my brother Leonard and I have always had, or for a lot of years have had a distance between us and some problems between us, and it was a way of artistically dealing with that problem.

PH: I like the three spaces in there. There are blocks of wood impaled on a vertical rod which is used for reinforcing concrete in buildings, which is mounted on a square metal base. There’s a stone resting out toward the right side. There’s a three-quarter circle enclosing the whole thing.

[recording stops and starts again]

PH: Number two is a box—

SC: That’s called The Warrior.

PH: —called The Warrior, with a similar visual balance. Heavy on the right, another three-quarter circle, in exactly the same position of wire. This is one of the hanging boxes with the platform which is opaque white glass is it?

SC: It’s an opaque beige—

PH: Glass of some sort.

SC: Yeah.

PH: Acting as a platform above, oh, five inches above the base of the thing, so that it really floats in space. Interesting with that light coming through from the wall, this is one of the pieces where you mentioned the light coming back from the wall—

SC: Mm-hmm.

PH: —piece being detached from the wall. The foggy glass against the wall—the light coming through the platform, the beige platform appears to be suspended as if it were almost a swing—it doesn’t seem to be touching the back at all, which is a fascinating illusion. In other words, these things are filled with illusions.

SC: Take a look at the little character here. The—

PH: Yeah—

SC: —the profile of it—

PH: —looks almost like an Easter Island figure.

SC: Well, I’m a little bit more of the [inaudible] on the Andes. I don’t know how closely you can see, but there’s a very accurate profile and facial features—

PH: Well, I see the nose coming out and then the mouth and—

SC: Uh-huh.

PH: —or you mean the very bottom?

SC: I mean the very bottom is a very accurate profile of a face.

[recording stops and starts]

PH: I don’t see the Peruvian, but anyway—

SC: Anyway—

PH: It looks, it was a chip of glass—

SC: —it happened to have a profile in it. Something I found and the character was put together about 10 years ago, and it had been sitting around and recently when—for about a month this year I had a musician working down here while I was working. He was practicing and playing to the work, sometimes we’d do things together then ended up we did a performance here with a poet down in this space and, some of these two pieces were very close together and he brought them together and they seemed perfect—

PH: Is that black glass in that sort of basket?

SC: Yeah that’s glass that’s been painted.

PH: That’s been painted black and matte black and then it is so gossamer thin that it’s been chipped and broken away and looks like a little basket, and out of it rises a tiny rod with an Indian arrow head mounted on the top. And then there’s a wonderful, ceramic ball with four feet—

SC: Well, it originally was a little pot—

PH: It’s upside-down—

SC: —yeah—

PH: —and the edge of the pot, the rim chipped—

SC: Mm-hmm.

PH: —so you put it upside-down. That’s a nice one, and the little glass head is mounted on a pin with its collar is a little clay neck choker. I can see—

[recording stops and starts again]

PH: Then number three is one with, what did we say? 12 or five, six, seven, eight—

SC: Yeah, 12.

PH: —twelve strands of sagged glass coming down and making attractive columns in the bottom. That’s mounted on a clear glass platform about four inches above the base. It has a circle right around it inside and then behind it is a very Moorish cocktail hors d’oeuvre tray, we used to have a set of those at home, black lacquer with the gold stars. Fascinating things, that’s all there is, and yet, you can make all kinds of things out of it. Suspended from the base, frosted back, frosted base—

[recording stops and starts again]

PH: Number four is a beautiful soft, translucent, filmy, cobalt blue with a triangular drop of glass curled back on itself within a triangular wire top and resting on a little elevated platform, not two inches above the bottom of the thing. Platform completely enclosed in the circle and that’s all there is but it’s very, very elegant and simple. The circle is not closed, again it’s open on the left—

SC: Somebody wrote some poetry about those circles, they called them ‘Broken Haloes.’ There’s a poem written about those two pieces in there. Would you like me to get you a copy of it?

PH: Sure—

SC: Okay—

PH: —send that when you send the other.

SC: Mm-hmm.

[recording stops and starts again]

PH: A little etching on the glass where the gap in the circle is on the outside glass which just fills it in—

SC: Also with that one over there—

PH: That’s what, five?

SC: Yeah.

PH: Yeah, five is the one that is very wintery and icy, and you said you’d been out in Central Park in the winter. It’s a very transparent, very pale pink. Almost like a huge, knotted tree with several trunks all coming together or several flutings, reedings of the trunk, mounted on a triangular pattern that comes out and it’s against a backdrop of glass that is modeled in relief with a star patterns, and it’s very icy, crystalline wintery. Okay, I’ve got that one—

SC: Oh there’s two in the others, there’s Red Sky

[recording stops and starts again]

PH: Red Sky which I already talked about was six.

SC: Okay, there was also the piece with the blue and white sky. The tall piece—

[recording stops and starts mid-sentence]

PH: —this is the one with a very, very delicate, almost appeared to be airbrushed sky. It isn’t airbrushed but it looks that way. And, very, very thin pink glass dropped, three falls dropping, in the folds at the bottom and the top center of the thing, making a little pouch, and that’s got a glass circle above the upper half of it—

SC: It’s a wire circle.

PH: —a wire circle, which touches the supporting, triangular supporting wires, that is elevated about two inches on a platform, about two inches from the base, but this very soft sky behind it, it’s a beautiful thing. And it has, it has a very elegant shape, too. Almost like looking at a [inaudible] Grandfather clock.

SC: Hmm.

PH: You know the top part, the proportions of it are ni—and then the pendulum down here and so forth [SC laughs].

[recording stops and starts again]

PH: What is this, number—

SC: Eight.

PH: Is it really?

SC: Yeah.

PH: Number eight is the house, with the green glass suspension with a rather deep pouch, very graceful. And the roof is a hip roof, and the front appears to be spray painted, anyway it’s modeled. It’s got a blue sky behind and it was done on order for an architect or a builder. Was it an architect or a builder? Then there’s the little angel in the black box which may or may not have, maybe one black side, that’d be good—

SC: That’s the thought that has been occurring to me.

PH: It’s really quite, it’s even more mysterious that way—

SC: Mm-hmm.

PH: Okay, and the angel is standing in a triangle of fallen glass that got broken in an evil moment, and is most artistically and wonderfully broken so that it’s just as thin as a sheet of paper standing up there broken and then there’s a spiral halo that radiates above the angel’s head and comes all the way down to the bottom. That one is really elegant and the glass is the mottled black. You called it reticulated and I’m going to look up reticulated because it—

[recording stops and starts again]

PH: This last one we discussed number eight or nine is it?

SC: Seven.

PH: Number seven, the transparent pinkish sort of nylon pinkish one—the sky in the background is painted on the inner surface of the back pane of glass, which is separated from another pane of glass by oh, half an inch. And the other pane of glass is frosted, acid etched, I gather it’s acid etched not sandblasted, so that it makes the sky, which is really just very freely painted, look extremely delicate and powdery and cloudy, one can feel the warm air moving by—there’s a wet, sea-like quality almost as if this were a piece of kelp you know, that had risen from the sea even though it isn’t kelp colors.

SC: Interesting, yeah.

PH: You’ve got a kelp-colored one—

SC: Yeah.

PH: —over there, that’s an interesting idea that coming right up out of the sea.

SC: It’s almost more, it’s like moving in two directions—

PH: [over SC at first] Mmm, mmm, mmm, yeah, it’s both draining it, it’s really dripping water isn’t it? And at the same time it’s rising, which is interesting.

[recording stops and starts in mid-sentence]

PH: —the ones that you aren’t putting in the show, are five times as numerous as the ones that are in?

SC: Well, that’s because some of them aren’t ready to be shown. You know some of them are, I’m not sure, I just don’t know what to do with them—

PH: It’s an interesting thing to me, what would you say was an average length?

SC: To have time to work?

PH: Yeah, just the average, not the shortest or the longest, but before it, before it’s finally done.

SC: I would say six months. You know that’s maybe an average. Sometimes I do something quick that’s right, but sometimes it takes a couple years.

PH: That’s a very good point—are you going to have that one in?

SC: Yeah.

PH: Alright, I’ll mention this one more, what’ll we number it? 10?

SC: Yeah, to me there’s a whole thing on that one. I put that one in—

PH: [speaking over SC at first] That’s the one with an angel in it and a floating cross-shaped canopy, baldacchino kind of thing with the wires in it and then a black archway down on the left and the Red Sky in the Morning. It’s funny, I always had that too, that red sky in the morning.

SC: Uh-huh.

[recording stops and starts again]

PH: [begins mid-sentence]—that interests me. I’m glad I thought about it, I must have been solid, to think about it. Your involvement with glass, what is it now? Do you feel really involved with glass as a substance? I mean, are you really attracted to glass, or is glass just a vehicle for the same things you’re doing as a sculptor at the moment?

SC: Both, I think. You know, it’s in a sense, I feel like my primary interests is in the effect. How much the materials I use can further my vision the sense of what I want to make. Glass happens to be that material to a great extent these days. It provides the focus for what I’m doing, for what I want to do. I see it being used in the future in even other ways that I haven’t used it before. But I also see more drawing coming into my work. More painting coming into my work. Especially in conjunction with glass and I don’t think of my work as glass work as much as my work.

PH: It’s mixed media, really.

SC: Yeah, you know and it varies from year to year—

PH: And it happens to be glass now and has been for some while, but—

SC: —it’s like people use oil paints and they use watercolors and they use gouache and they use charcoal and they sometimes have a strong involvement with oil paints you know, and it’s something you know very intimately, the material—I know glass in some very intimate way and it’s very easy for me to use it. You know it just happens to be something I feel very facile with.

PH: Yup. You don’t bother about the chemistry of it?

SC: I don’t bother about the chemistry of it, no. I’m more—

PH: You’re not interested in it the way a glassblower is interested in it—

SC: I don’t work that way, I’m not involved as a glassblower. I’m more interested in the transformation of form. The forms are what are really exciting to me and the forms that are made out of glass are especially exciting.

PH: But presumably, now we’re adding colored stars and objects inside the glass box, presumably you could get to a point where you’d be doing it all in marble or alabaster or stone or wood—

SC: Maybe—

PH: —or what—maybe—it has to come when it comes, if it comes.

SC: —you know some of the work in the last show—there were three pieces that had some painting on the background and had some other objects in the box besides glass. It isn’t the first time I’ve worked like that, but it’s developed to another level—

PH: Yeah, you had the airplane.

SC: Uh-huh, and there was one with a shovel handle in it too—

PH: Yeah.

PH: Yup. Okay, yeah, that does it for me. That’s good.

[recording stops and starts again]

PH: The thing to me is that, when we take your work at its best now, and compare it with the work of other people who are working in glass, it’s as good as the best of their work in glass, but they are glassmakers. And you’re not, you’re a glass user.

SC: Hmm.

PH: And, and yet, you’re able to do what they can do and keep up with them even though you don’t have the commitments or involvement with the material that they do at all in the same sense. They’re worrying about the chemistry and the cooking of it and the manipulation of it and all that kind of thing, and you’re only doing it in the sense of getting these architectural draped forms, which is some concern, but it isn’t the same kind of concern that they have.

SC: Yeah—

PH: And it’s sort of as if you were for instance, you were basically a cellist, but, when the guy who was going to play the Chopin piano concerto got sick, you could fill in and do as good a job on that, that night as the guy who was the star. That’s a point I will try to make—

SC: Uh-huh.

PH: —so that, you know, catch me if you can. When you—

SC: I feel like I have a wide open vista, in the sense of it may be that some years I may not use glass at all, but I’ll be doing the work that’s most dear to me and closest to, to what’s important to me, whereas I feel like a lot of people who are involved in glass are caught in the material and aren’t as involved as they might be with what happens with the forms they’re making or, or how diverse the form might be, or I think there’s a game here in glass because it’s such a beautiful material that it can become self-involved.

PH: Yes, it’s so dominating.

SC: Mm-hmm.

PH: It was interesting in that connection during one of the openings there was a guy down in the basement at Heller’s who was a sculptor. I never got his name, and he was slightly tight, he’d been drinking some of their wine and he started, he was introduced to me and he started talking and he said, ‘You know it’s very interesting,” he said, ‘None of this God-damned stuff here,’ I don’t know whose work it was, ‘None of this God-damned stuff has any real form to it,’ he says, ‘These people have absolutely no sense of sculptural form. They’re good glassmakers, but they don’t know what to do with what they’re making. There isn’t a single thing that’s got any form.’ And I said, ‘Well, how did you feel about the new glass show up at Corning?’ And he said, ‘I felt the same way up there,’ he said, ‘There wasn’t anybody who understood design or form. They were just blowing or casting or whatever.’ Well, I never got, I said, ‘Well would you like to go over,’ because the show was at the Met at that time, ‘would you like to go over and look at it with me and tell me what you mean, let’s point out some examples.’ And, he said, ‘Sure.’ And that was the last I ever saw of him, but it is interesting isn’t it that—?

[recording stops and starts again]

PH: [PH talks to himself into recorder; loud noise throughout] This is a quote from An Introduction to Anglo-Saxon England by Peter Hunter Blair, Cambridge University Press, 1956. This is in a chapter called ‘Towns and Trade:’ ‘Bede relates that Benedict Biscop B-I-S-C-O-P [spelled out by PH] sent to Gaul for glass-makers to make the windows for his new monastery at Monkwearmouth because the art of making glass was not then known in Britain. In 756 the abbot of Monkwearmouth wrote to the archbishop of Maintz asking for a good glass-maker to be sent to him because the English had no skill in this art. Yet the number of glass vessels recovered from Anglo-Saxon graves is not far short of three hundreƒd, a quantity which testifies to a very considerable traffic in this fragile substance. Almost all this glass was made in northern Gaul or the Rhineland, though one remarkable goblet, found in Sussex and bearing a Greek inscription, evidently came from the Eastern Mediterranean.’ Unquote.

[recording stops and starts again]

PH: Then in the household book of Lady Grisell, G-R-I-S-E-double-L Baillie, B-A-I-L-L-I-E (1692-1733), by Robert Scott Dash Montcreeff, two Fs, Edinburgh, 1911, printed at the University by T&A Constable for the Scottish History Society, page 3.

[recording stops and starts again]

Page 3, ‘1695 for helping glas, G-L-A-S [spelled out by Hollister] windows, 17 shillings.’ [note shillings in original book noted as “s.”]

[recording stops and starts again]

PH: —‘disbursements 1696 January 1st—for glasing, G-L-A-S-I-N-G [spelled out by Hollister], the forroom window F-O-R-R-O-O-M [spelled out by Hollister] two pounds eight shillings.’ [note cost in original book noted as “2 8 0”]

[recording ends]