TOLEDO, Ohio — Whenever I encounter a museum exhibition that frames itself as presenting exclusively female artists, I have to run through the same internal debate about emphasizing artists’ gender. I recognize the necessity of making a conscious effort to include or exclusively feature female artists — or any other broad swath of the population that has spent the larger portion of art history taking a back seat to Euro-centric exhibitions of male artists — and certainly appreciate institutions when they choose to do so. The sticking point, for me, always comes when the work is framed as being “art by women.” I identify as both an artist and a woman, but rarely do I head into the studio thinking: “Time to make some women’s art, like the woman I am!”
Fired Up: Contemporary Glass by Women Artists at the Toledo Museum of Art (TMA) showcases more than 50 works of exemplary studio glass, largely from the museum’s collection. The exhibition was co–curated by former TMA Senior Curator of Decorative Arts and Glass Jutta Page and Mint Museum Senior Curator of Craft, Design, and Fashion Annie Carlano; it originated at the Mint and is now enjoying a turn in TMA’s Glass Pavilion, where the Studio Glass Movement has its roots. Since the heyday of the automotive industry in nearby Detroit, Toledo has manufactured auto glass and components, which in the 1960s evolved into a full-fledged art movement. The kilns and techniques that were developed for the industrial market became fodder for artists (of both genders) to question the form and function of glass as a medium.