Pioneering Glass Artist

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Audrey Handler. John Hart photo.

Audrey Handler was one of the early students of famed UW professor Harvey Littleton, who pioneered the studio glass movement. John Hart/Wisconsin State Journal

Audrey Solomon Handler MA’67, MFA’70 is in fine company: when she earned the Wisconsin Visual Art Lifetime Achievement Award, she joined honorees Frank Lloyd Wright x1890 and Georgia O’Keeffe.

Handler was an integral part of the studio glass movement, an artistic revolution that began in the 1960s with UW–Madison professor Harvey Littleton. He and his students experimented and learned together, renting old glass-blowing films from the Corning Museum of Glass and trying to emulate the techniques. “It was so exciting,” Handler recalls. “Every day was something new.”

In 1971, Handler and other classmates, including the late Marvin Lipofsky MFA’64, MA’64, formed the Glass Art Society. She is one of only a few women who were in the movement at the beginning, and one of even fewer from that era who are still working. “Glass blowing is very hard on your body, and I’ve been doing it since 1965,” she says.

Handler’s work embodies the studio glass movement’s mission of artistic individuality. When she creates glass bowls and platters, she introduces a spider-web pattern in the background. It’s a technique that is often achieved by accident, but she does it intentionally. “You want to make something distinctive, that’s your own,” she says. She’s also known for her Pear in a Chair series, which combines wood and blown glass with silver and gold cast figures — a collaboration with her husband, John Martner.

She is known for her glass fruits and vegetables, such as the bell pepper at left, as well as platters and vases (below).

Handler is known for her glass fruits and vegetables, such as the bell pepper (right), as well as platters and vases (left). Courtesy of Audrey Handler.

More recently, she has produced paintings that feature glass paint fired on tile, creating surreal landscapes.

Handler works year-round in her Verona, Wisconsin, studio — a converted 19th-century cheese factory that is one of the nation’s longest-running glass-blowing studios.

Published in the Winter 2016 issue

Tags: Alumni, Arts, Campus history

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