I first became aware of San Francisco native Al’s blown glass work after seeing several examples at various group exhibitions around Honolulu. The large scale of the works, combined with the fine craftsmanship and carefully balanced construction sparked my interest in learning more about his art.
In July of 2017, I made my first visit to Ness’ studio, located in a warehouse complex off Kapa‘a Quarry Road in Kailua. The metal-walled Quonset hut structure serves as the base of operations for Ness’ glass fabrication. Ness, along with his girlfriend Yona, welcomed me into the space, and brought out a range of pieces in various stages of completion for me to see. A second visit followed in April of 2018, during which particular pieces were selected and the layout of the gallery was determined.
Recently, Ness has been using the furnaces at the University of Hawaiʻi Mānoa glass department, where he is enrolled as an unclassified graduate student. After the blowing phase is completed there, the pieces are taken to the Kapa‘a Quarry studio for polishing, finishing, and assembling. This is the most creative part of the process for Ness. Each piece takes approximately 32 hours from blown fabrication to completion.
The works in the First Hawaiian Center exhibition Volcanic Oceans in Glass: Alan P. Ness are inspired by the energy, rhythms and colors of the ocean and volcanic processes. The shapes and proportions of the vase-like forms and lids were designed based on historic vessels from the Classical Roman era. Long, graceful appendages reminiscent of the sprouting tendrils of underwater plants or ribbons of lava appear to grow from the tops of his pieces, offering a surprising twist on the traditional glass vase form. Selected works are named for types of lava, such as the smooth, undulating pāhoehoe, or the rough, chunky ʻaʻā, both of which have appeared during the current eruption of Kilauea volcano on Hawaiʻi Island. Ness’ sculptures exhibit a tenuous balance between solidity and motion, alluding to nature’s active transformation of the landscape.
Ness received his Master of Fine Arts in 2008 from the University of Hawaiʻi, Manoa, and teaches beginning and intermediate glass at the university. He attended Pilchuck Glass School in Stanwood, Washington, both as a student and as a teacher’s assistant since 1997, and was a visiting artist at Kauaʻi Recycling for the Arts.
Volcanic Oceans in Glass: Alan P. Ness is on view from July 12 – September 28, 2018 at the First Hawaiian Center downtown.