Karen LaMonte, internationally acclaimed sculptor, to speak at KU Spencer March 4

LAWRENCE — Karen LaMonte has earned international praise for her striking cast-glass sculptures. The New York-born artist, who now lives and works in Prague, the Czech Republic, will speak on “Beauty & Catastrophe” at 4 p.m. Sunday, March 4, at the Spencer Museum of Art, whose permanent collection now houses one of her most recent works, the monumental 2010 glass sculpture “Chado.” The talk is free and open to the public; a reception will follow in the Museum’s Central Court.


“Chado,” which the Spencer acquired through donor Hope Talbot, is part of a series of cast kimonos that LaMonte created in glass, bronze and ceramic as a result of a seven-month research fellowship spent in Kyoto, Japan, in 2007. LaMonte spent four years making the kimono sculptures — working in four countries and on three continents. She studied kimonos in every possible way, from formal uses in tea ceremony and theater, to making one and wearing it herself.

“The double casting of the glass parallels the way that clothing is like a second skin,” says Susan Earle, Spencer curator of European and American art. “The forms that LaMonte creates are life-size glass dresses that seem to float like ghosts or embodiments of memories, poignantly signifying the absent figure and the dress from which the glass gains its form. They are hauntingly beautiful, and evoke loss, mortality and the sublime.”

“Chado” draws its name from the Japanese tea ceremony, and the sculpture portrays a kneeling geisha in the act of offering tea. The artist wanted to convey the sensitivity of a Buddhist society to all that is ephemeral, creating an almost melancholic sense of beauty. The sculpture, on view in the Museum’s 20/21 Gallery, was cast in a kiln in the Czech Republic in 2010, heated to a very high temperature and then left to rest in the kiln for three months as the material gradually cooled and stabilized.

Earle says LaMonte’s work defies categorization as either art or craft and influentially blurs those distinctions.

“Her glass dresses serve as symbolic and sculptural forms, imbued with the history of art and also with the very personal presence of the woman who once inhabited these flowing fabrics,” Earle says. “She investigates light and space through draping the human form, considering the meanings of adornment, the history of art and the dress as a cultural signifier.”

Born in New York in 1967, LaMonte earned her Bachelor of Fine Arts at the Rhode Island School of Design in 1990. In 1999, she earned a Fulbright scholarship to study in Prague, the Czech Republic, to expand her skills at making large-scale cast glass in one of the world’s top glass factories.

LaMonte has earned numerous awards and fellowships, has had several exhibitions, and already has garnered an extensive bibliography. Her first solo museum exhibition in the United States was at the Tacoma Museum of Glass in 2006.