By Nancy Cohen Israel
A solo museum exhibition is the goal of every artist. “New Patterns: Simon Waranch Glass” at the Sherwin Miller Museum of Jewish Art in Tulsa, is the fourth for this artist who is still in his 20s.
Dallas native Waranch graduated from Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts in 2017. Inspired while visiting Murano on a school-sponsored trip to Italy, Waranch found his artistic calling on this Venetian island dedicated to the art of glass. Since then, Waranch has studied with some of the world’s leading glass artists. In addition to an apprenticeship locally with Carlyn Ray, time spent with luminaries such as Joe Cariati in Los Angeles, William Gudenrath in Corning, New York and Dante Marioni in Seattle have informed his work. He even returned to Murano, where he studied with Davide Fuin. Eventually, he worked with Laura Donefer, a leading Canadian glass artist.
Glassblowing is one of the most complex of art forms to master. It is physically demanding and can be an unforgiving medium. Undaunted, Waranch’s work ranges from small, portable objects to larger, sculptural works. And while Waranch works alone in the studio daily, once a week, he has an assistant/peer toiling alongside him to help realize his vision. This teamwork is vital to a successful outcome. Working with someone else, he said, “Involves complete trust. It’s a beautiful thing.”
Waranch quickly mastered the most complex Venetian techniques. His work is technically precise with a freshness that makes it his own. “I’m looking at Reticello as a technique and a process and thinking about using it in a different way,” Waranch explained. Currently, his experiments involve using the technique as a collage element. His love for the medium is evident in his constant exploration of its many possibilities. “Every little moment of the glass is a different form of excitement rather than one uniform element,” he said.
It is this vitality that attracted the Sherwin Miller. “The quality of the work is exquisite,” said Mickel Yantz, the museum’s director of Collections and Exhibitions.
The museum is located on a campus that includes the Jewish Federation of Tulsa/Charles Shusterman Jewish Community Center, Mazel Jewish Community Day School and the Tulsa Jewish Retirement and Health Care Center. “We’re in our 55th year of celebrating Jewish art and culture,” Yantz explained. For a city with a Jewish population of about 1,800, this is a stunning accomplishment.
Waranch’s exhibit offered the first opportunity for an opening reception for the public in two years, and was a welcome treat, Yantz said. “It is the perfect storm of a younger artist with amazing work in a medium that we haven’t shown before. The response has been overwhelming.”
While Waranch’s work is represented locally at Craighead Green Gallery and internationally by Sandra Ainsley Gallery in Toronto, a museum exhibition is an important step forward for an often overlooked medium. “Seeing glass in the museum setting can contextualize the work in an art sense and not a craft sense,” Waranch said.
The exhibition is also bringing new people through the doors. “It gives [the museum] a new tool to attract a greater audience and get people who aren’t Jewish to see the show,” Waranch said. It seems to be working. “Simon has a lot of new fans here in Oklahoma,” Yantz said.
While the work itself does not explore Jewish themes, Waranch says, “There is one good Jewish connection. I dedicated the show to my grandfather, Andrew Bramley. He passed away a week and a half before the opening.” Installed in the galleries is a photograph of Bramley, a cellist, chemist and Holocaust survivor, watching over his grandson’s work.
In December, Waranch will graduate from the College for Creative Studies in Detroit and looks forward to setting up a studio in Dallas. His exhibition in Tulsa will be on view until Jan. 2, 2022.