Photo: A fused glass fish platter created by artist Bobby Harr.
By Jessica Gonzalez
Fused glass artist Bobby Harr uses dichroic glass, the same glass used by NASA to protect its astronauts and spacecraft from the radiation of unfiltered sunlight, to create vibrant, one-of-a-kind works of art.
Valley residents can see Bobby in action working with dichroic glass and fusing it into stunning works of art during the Arizona Fine Art EXPO Friday, Jan. 15 through Sunday, March 28 under the “festive white tents” at 26540 N. Scottsdale Road, on the southwest corner of Scottsdale and Jomax Roads, next to MacDonald’s Ranch.
The Arizona Fine Art EXPO, which runs from 10 am to 6 pm daily, features 115 patron-friendly artist studios in a 44,000 square-foot space, where guests have a rare chance to meet the artists, see them in action, and learn about their journey, inspiration and techniques.
Throughout the 10-week event, patrons can enjoy watching artisans sketch in rapiograph, pencil, charcoal and pastels; sculpt and fire clay; chisel, carve and shape stone; scratch and etch on porcelain and clay board, and saw and carve wood sculptures. Artists will also paint in all media; stain and etch gourds; design lost wax casting; design and create jewelry, and assemble mosaics. Art is for sale during the event, and commissions are welcomed.
As the oldest son in a Jewish family, Bobby Harr was supposed to be a doctor or a lawyer, not an artist.
“I was always different and eccentric,” says Bobby. “I did a number of creative things but didn’t let the art out. It wasn’t until I was 48 years old that I gave myself permission to explore art.”
Bobby experimented with different mediums, including painting and ceramics, before he saw someone working with glass on TV. But, he couldn’t find a class anywhere in the Valley.
He was finally able to observe someone doing torchwork and saw how he arranged colored pieces of glass and then fused them in the kiln.
“I ordered a kiln and glass that night,” says Bobby. “I had to find a video to teach myself, but the minute I tried it, I knew fusing glass was what I had been searching for.”
Bobby’s first kiln was only six inches square on the inside. He decided to start with mezuzahs because he could fit several in the small kiln at once. Since that time, he has expanded into menorahs, wall art and cuff links.
His work has been featured in the Jewish Museum in New York, Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles and more than 200 galleries throughout the United States.
The glass he uses arrives at Bobby’s studio in large sheets. He makes a rough sketch of his ideas and then begins cutting the glass and laying out the pieces. He starts with a piece of black glass as his base. Bobby adds the dichroic glass, which changes colors as light moves across it, to create the vibrant colors that are a signature of his work.
Once he likes the way the glass has been arranged, he uses craft glue to hold the pieces in place while he moves it to the kiln. The glue burns off in the kiln as the pieces of glass fuse together, leaving a beautiful work of art in its place.
In addition to Judaica, Bobby is planning collections of pieces inspired by the cactus of Arizona, his home for the past 40 years, and his love of music. The new pieces, as well as his signature mezuzahs, menorahs and cuff links, will be available for purchase during the Arizona Fine Art EXPO.
Bobby, who used to teach at the Jewish Community Center in Scottsdale, has taught more than 1,000 people in the Valley how to create fused glass.
He shares, “There’s some type of creativity in everyone.”
EXPO organizers are working closely with the City of Phoenix to ensure this year’s artists, staff and visitors’ safety. The event will follow all Centers for Disease Control recommendations, including requiring masks and social distancing for all patrons and artists in attendance. Artists will receive daily temperature checks, and each studio will have hand sanitizer available for patron use.
The annual event is one of Arizona’s premier venues for collecting fine art. Season passes cost $10; season passes for seniors and military are $8, and children under 12 are free. Parking is free.
For more details about the event or participating artists, call 480-837-7163 or visit ArizonaFineArtEXPO.com.