Heller Gallery is pleased to present Salacia, our third solo exhibition of new work by award-winning, Philadelphia-based artist Amber Cowan.
Cowan’s fantastical, wall-sculpture assemblages are made out of collected and re-worked American pressed glass once commercially produced in the best-known, but now defunct, glass factories in the United States. Through the transformative powers of devotional-like practice, knowledge and imagination, her work asks universal questions about rebirth and desire. Salacia, Cowan’s exhibition title, honors the mythological Roman female divinity of the sea. Her name is derived from the word ‘sal’ (Latin for salt). A pressed glass cup with a motif of the goddess dating back to the 1920s (based on a 1690s painting by Italian painter Sebastiano Ricci) appears in two of the exhibition’s pieces: the smaller, blue Goddess in Sky Vase and the larger, narrative sculpture Snail Passing through the Garden of Inanna.
The major new pieces presented in Salacia delve deeper into Cowan’s narrative work and are populated with character-objects she has collected over years. Realizing their finite and diminishing numbers and prizing her emotional investment in these objects, she has created spectacular settings for them, which often echo the intricacy and exuberance of Rococo grottos and paintings.
In a recent interview for the online design & architecture platform Yatzer, Cowan described the work she was making for Salacia as follows: ‘The pieces that I am gravitating towards lately are creating story scenes. In them I build a narrative around the collected [objects] and intermix them with personal visions, dreams and stories of travel from my own life. The piece I am excited about the most right now has ballerinas, fish, swans and a view of the coast driving down the Pacific Coast Highway from Santa Barbara to LA.’
Amber Cowan received her MFA from Temple University’s Tyler School of Art in 2011. She is the 2014 recipient of the prestigious Rakow Commission from the Corning Museum of Glass. Her work has been published in the Corning Museum’s New Glass Review, the New York Times, Harper’s Bazaar, Craft Magazine and Glass Quarterly and featured in museum exhibitions across the United States, in Europe and in China. Her work is included in the collections of the Toledo Museum of Art, the Corning Museum of Glass and the Rhode Island School of Design Museum. In 2018 Cowan was honored by UrbanGlass for her contributions to the field.