Media Release

Internationally acclaimed sculptor Karen LaMonte to speak on “Beauty & Catastrophe”

Chado by Karen LaMonte

Lawrence, KS, February 21, 2012 – 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 PM on 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, co-sponsored by KU’s European Studies Program, is free and open to the public; a reception will follow in the Museum’s Central Court.

Chado, which the Spencer acquired thanks to the generosity of 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, SMA Curator of European & 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 BFA at the Rhode Island School of Design in 1990. She began working in the medium of glass, creating innovative pieces that combine intellectual depth with masterful technique and stunning forms. 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. Her goal was to make a life-size, hollow, cast-glass dress. Although she is modest about this goal, and its eventual achievement, no one had ever done this before.

In order to do this, she had to figure out how to make two impressions, resulting in a colorless, translucent form that echoes headless, classical sculptures. Beginning with a life-cast of a nude female figure, LaMonte then clothes the cast nude with a draping dress, which might be a nineteenth-century American evening gown, a stylish Art Deco dress, or, more recently, as in the case of Chado, a Japanese kimono. The dress itself is what creates the form, although the dress does not hang limply as it would in the work of some recent artists. Instead it has been filled with the life and contours of a real human form—albeit now notably absent: only the dress remains.

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.

Media Contacts

Elizabeth Kanost

Elizabeth Kanost
Communications Manager

Susan Earle

Susan Earle
Curator, European & American Art
Spencer Museum of Art