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Artist Profile: Carlos Zervignon

Artist Carlos Zervignon

Thom Bennett Photographs

It was light – and the possibilities of manipulating it – that first led Carlos Zervigon to glass art, though by early 2005 his work had acquired a dark edge.

Moved by the plight of the deteriorating Louisiana coast, the New Orleans native created a series of glass houses, often cracked, sometimes clutched by skeletal branches, other times staked out along bleak landscapes. Then came Hurricane Katrina and the levee failures, and suddenly Zervigon’s artistic vision became devastatingly real. So as New Orleans started rebuilding, Zervigon began exploring a new style.

“I didn’t want to subject people to more broken houses and dead trees,” he says. “I chose instead to focus on work that was colorful, abstract, intriguing and optimistic.”

His latest work is seeded in that period of rebirth, when the shock of the city’s near-death experience turned to gratitude for its survival. As tubular bundles, off-kilter shapes and totem pole constructions, these pieces are exuberant and bright, though underlying them all is the technical precision that makes glass art so challenging and, for Zervigon, so appealing.
“I think glass attracts a certain personality,” he says. “It’s very physical work; it’s hot; and the men and women who do this are very hardheaded, even macho – the orthopedic surgeon meets the tattoo artist.”

For all that hardheadedness, though, there’s also a strong collaborative bond in the local glass art community, and Zervigon has been an influential part of it. He is a co-founder of the New Orleans Creative Glass Institute, which was created as a public-access glass studio in Mid-City and is now part of Young Aspirations/Young Artists, or YA/YA. This nonprofit arts education program is using the facility to introduce glass art to more local students.

The source material for Zervigon’s new collection could come alternately from biology textbooks, a sci-fi movie’s prop room or the playground in a child’s dream, though he is mum on exact narratives. One large curling piece could evoke a thumb or a scorpion’s tail or maybe a nautilus. Zervigon just calls it Crescent.

“I often give cryptic names to avoid influencing how people perceive them,” he says. “I just don’t want people sticking a flower in it, thinking it’s a vase. That’s always an issue with glass art. But otherwise people can apply their own interpretations.”

Zervigon’s latest work is on display at Cole Pratt Gallery on Magazine Street. See more examples at carloszervigon.com.

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