Van Gogh recreated is Luther Bean Museum's "art"ifact of the month

(11-05-2009)

Article by Crystal Gibson

The stained glass sculpture "Van Gogh's Griz", by local stained glass artist Kay Malouff, has the charm and energy that Malouff, herself has. Walking into the Adams State College Luther Bean Museum, the grizzly bear sculpture immediately attracts visitors. As the sunlight reflects off the hundreds of stained glass pieces affixed to the artwork, it produces a glow only your eyes can understand. A person may wonder, "What the process was in creating it, why Van Gogh, why stained glass, and who was Kay Malouff?"

Malouff, Adams State alumna '81, said the bear took four months to complete because she was working on other projects during the same time. She said she was inspired by Vincent Van Gogh's painting "Starry Night". "I've always liked 'Starry Night', even when I was little. It was also something everyone could recognize."

For some artists, stained glass is more than biblical stories told through glass and the beautiful colors shining onto the church pews; it's a craft that must be mastered. According to Malouff, the process in which stained glass is produced is simple; however, the actual steps can be tricky and frustrating. The first step: pre-designing includes the initial drawing, the cartooning (when the drawing is put on poster board and cut). The next step, before cutting the glass, is tracing the design onto the glass using the cartoon. Cutting the glass comes after the tracing, I can contest having tried cutting glass and it is tricky. Each piece of glass has a different texture and consistency and can make cutting the glass a challenge. A diamond cutter is used to cut the glass smoothly. After all the cutting is finished, the next step is to grind the glass with a water grinder until its texture is smooth. After grinding, the artist will flux the glass, copper foil wrapped around the glass to make it easier to solder the pieces together. Using a soldering iron and solder, an alloy with a low melting point, the pieces are joined together.

However, Malouff did not use this process to create the grizzly bear sculpture. The "Van Gogh's Griz" is a mosaic, which means there was no soldering involved; this process was much simpler. Since the form of the bear was already created by local sculptor Jim Gilmore, as part of LaPuente's Grizzly Cultural Totems, Malouff didn't need to worry much about the shape of her creation. She said her only concern was how to get to glass to stick to a fiber glass bear and adding to the fact that she would be applying each piece of glass individually. She found glue that would adhere to the fiber glass and the glass, and then glued each piece of glass to the bear creating the design of Van Gogh's "Starry Night" keeping spaces in between each piece of glass. She used grout to fill the spaces between the glass pieces.

Even as a child Malouff worked with stained glass with her dad and as she got older she started soldering pieces together. Malouff said when she first started at Adams State she planned on being a second grade teacher. "I was a regular rebel, my mother wanted me to be practical and be a teacher but that wasn't me. I was in love with art and I knew that was my calling."

Malouff's work can be found in the Brewery, The Great Sand Dunes National Park Visitor Center, Mesa Verde, and the Luther Bean Museum, located on the second floor in Richardson Hall on the Adams State campus.

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