Calgary artist pushes comfort zones with her latest glass work


Amidst leather straps, fishnets, fur and glass-blown body parts, Calgary’s Elisabeth Cartwright unveiled her “Just the Tip” collection. Queen’s “Body Language” served as the soundtrack for the performance.

Body parts formed out of glass including breasts, a belly and a penis made up the trifecta of comfort-zone-pushing pieces created by Cartwright.

“It’s called ‘Just the Tip’ because the tips of the glass pieces are sandblasted and that represents the most sensitive areas of the body. Those are the parts that I want people to touch and engage with,” she said.

She notes that people are afraid to touch glass pieces because it is a fragile medium. Glass breaks. The areas of the body she represented in her art correspond with parts of the body that are not often touched by others.


The notion of tackling the untouchable is one reason Cartwright gravitates towards glass as her medium of choice. For glass to be malleable, it must be anywhere from 700 to 1,000 C before an artist can work with it.Models display “Just the Tip” blown-glass art pieces by Elisabeth Cartwright.
Photo by: Karry Taylor

“The idea that you don’t get to touch glass until it comes out of the annealer (a glass cooling oven) is really captivating for me. You have to use extensions of your body when you’re mixing something with glass because it’s so hot. You can’t touch it,” Cartwright said.

She is an ACAD graduate with a bachelor of fine arts. Her work has been exhibited in galleries throughout the city including the Untitled Art Society and the Ruberto Ostberg Gallery.

Currently her pieces are showing at Grasshopper Gallery in Irricana, Alta.

“Just the Tip” will touch down in Toledo, Ohio this summer in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the American studio glass movement. The movement emphasized the artist-as-designer and maker-with-a-focus on the creation of one-of-a-kind objects.

In 1962, Harvey Littleton moved hot glass blowing from an industrial setting to a studio setting with the help of Toledo Museum director Otto Witmann. A garage on the museum’s grounds hosted two workshops in that year and the studio movement was born.

An estimated 1,500 to 2,000 people are expected to attend the 2012 Glass Art Society conference that the Toledo Museum of Art is hosting to commemorate the birth of the movement.

“I’m excited,” Cartwright says, humbly, of showing her work at the event.

“I believe that when someone creates art, they leave a small part of their soul behind to live on in everyone that experiences their work. Glass has boundless boundaries,” her artist statement reads.

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