Louis Sclafani, while studying in 1976 at the Siena School of Art in Italy, became fascinated with glass on a trip to Venice and the Island of Murano. After a 3 year apprenticeship in Venice with renowned glass sculptor Loredano Rosin, Sclafani has been creating unique and technically advanced glass sculptures in his own studio in Rosendale, NY. Louis’s work is included in many private and public collections such as the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian Art Museum, Tampa Museum of Art,Museum of American Glass, and the Prescott Collection in Seattle.
Thoughts on Louis Sclafani’s Portraits
By Amy Rahn
Louis Sclafani’s sculptures, born of the unlikely coupling of glass and metal, evolve in the
viewer’s presence, unfolding in the fourth dimension: time. Sclafani works time, building it
into his works as surely as glass and metal.
Sclafani’s series of Portraits incorporate layers of glass and metal to re-create the timehonored
form of the sculptural bust. Yet, far from the staid bronze busts of political figures
and cultural icons that have traditionally embellished government buildings and museums,
Sclafani’s busts fragment under the viewer’s eye. Often, when you see these works frontally,
there is a stability, a coherence about them. They seem straightforward and whole. When
you move around them, however, they turn transparent, abstract, their glass interiors
suspended like small seas.
Sclafani’s sculptures, like other sculptures are meant to be seen in the round, and are only fully
realized when viewed from all sides. In this process of viewing, the
physical layers of glass transform into the conceptual layers of an individual’s psyche.
Sclafani’s Portraits unfold in time. Their temporality is linked with the viewer’s movement.
These works, as they shift with the viewer’s motion, are the opposite of the staid bronze
busts of the past, which pretended the individual represented was fixed and knowable.
Instead, Sclafani’s heads propose a different role for the sculptural bust—that they, like we,
evolve in time and space. Like the viewer, they are simultaneously known and unknowable.
In these works, there is a clear contrast between interior and exterior, but also a harmony
of surface and interior matter. Sclafani’s works cause us to exchange the concept of looking at artworks for the complexity of seeing through, past, and around works.
With their physical layers and shifting forms, these works exchange the hollow bronze
portraits of the past for complex and fluid presences activated by the viewer’s time and
attention. As we see them, we might experience the exhilarating contingency of seeing itself,
and the fugitive intensity of the present moment.