Engineers Have Fun Too
Tell us about yourself!
My name is Nancy Gong. I live and work in Rochester, NY. I came to crafts with early influences from my mother and Asian arts. I came to glass while at SUNY (State University of NY) Empire State College, a college for motivated individuals who in my case wanted a program that was not available. I wrote my own program of studies in various forms of art and craft that was approved after a lengthy period. It is not an easy process. I left after a year due to an accident. I chose not to return because I did not want to pay double tuition for a degree thinking a degree was most necessary in the arts if I was interested in teaching. I was not interested in teaching. I was more interested in creating art. It was double tuition because Empire State College was structured in a way that my course work could include classes within the SUNY for free, but classes else where were an additional cost. I was taking classes at RIT (Rochester Institute of Technology), studying with other artists / mentors and exploring learning opportunities presented through introductions made at the Glass Art Society and other glass conferences. That was the beginning of my long affair with learning hands on through intensive workshops with accomplished artists. A design workshop with Narcissus Quagliata in San Francisco had a profound influence on the approach to my art at a young age.
What draws you to the material you work with, and why have you chosen the processes that you use in your work?
I am attracted to light transmission, color and the textural qualities of glass that combined can reinforce both physical and emotional aspects of a design. I start with the design, then I choose the material and processes that will best express and reinforce my design.
What themes do you pursue in your work?
I tend to focus on energy and spirit of living things.
What is your dream project?
My dream project is one that has an open-ended budget and no parameters that allow me to create a work of art that will be all that it can be, have it be publically or privately embraced and appreciated in a big way for its artistic vision.
If you weren’t working in this field, what career would you choose?
I would explore other cultures and the art that they live with in their daily lives as well as arts indigenous to their culture. I love that art tells us about the people, their customs and their ways of life at a particular time.
What’s something about you that most people don’t know?
I was enrolled in an Executive Secretarial program at a two-year college. It lasted less than one quarter before I quickly realized that this was not a path that was meant for me. I stuck it out for a quarter. I wanted to love what my chosen career was to be. I realized then that my career would consume well over one third of my life. Then I was close to becoming a printmaker or weaver before connecting with glass as an artistic medium. Little did I know that my profession as an artist would consume nearly two thirds of my daily allowance. No regrets.
Why are you a member of GAS?
The first GAS conference I attended was at Asilomar State Park. Does anyone have pictures?! What year was that? I think there were only a couple hundred attending and true to form, it was a wild time. It was there I was introduced to Narcissus Quagliata, Paul Marioni, Rich Posner, Dan Fenton, Ed Carpenter, Ray King, Marvin Lipofsky, Henry Halem and Fritz Dreisbach. These folks and others, most of who have stuck with glass and life as artist; they welcomed me as a young artist and helped to open my mind to so many possibilities. I was a member then for those same reasons I am a member today. I am a member of GAS because from early on, I have considered myself open to approaches outside of my traditional base of “stained glass.” My interest is in creating art of my time rather than recreating art of a bygone era. While it is of great value to keep historical art alive; to have those who work in period and historical glass leveraging appreciation of the medium, it wasn’t for me. I have long avoided looking at other 2-d glass artists’ work to keep my work fresh and original. Only now, as the American Glass Guild’s 2017 Conference and Program Chair, am I looking to see what others doing in “flat, architectural art glass.” I am a member of GAS because it keeps me informed of new approaches and processes being applied to the making of glass artwork; there may be possibilities of morphing techniques of application to further build my own vocabulary in the designing of architectural art glass and fine art, or they may spur another thought. It keeps my work fresh. I come away inspired. Besides, I love my glass peeps – they understand me!