Thomas Stearns at Venini
At the end of 1960 Thomas Stearns (1936–2006) arrived in Murano, with a study grant from the Italian government and a Fulbright Travel Grant, to develop his research in glass commenced during his years of training, first at the Memphis Academy of Art and then at the prestigious Cranbrook Academy of Art, Bloomfield Hills, MI. Thanks to the remarkable openness of spirit of Ludovico de Santillana — who succeeded Paolo Venini as manager after the latter’s death (1959) —, the American artist was able to experiment with the possibilities of blown glass, taking advantage of the extraordinary expertise of ‘Checco’ Ongaro, the only one among the Venini masters prepared to make himself available to implement Stearns’s projects. During his two years at the Venini glassworks, where from the end of 1961 he was taken on as a guest designer, Stearns had the possibility of devoting himself to artistic research, along with which he also developed series of a commercial nature. He produced very original works, often with organic and asymmetric shapes, using dense opaque colours generally side by side with transparent glass.
In 1962, on the occasion of the 31st Venice Biennale, the Venini firm chose also to exhibit six pieces by the artist which were considered worthy of the gold medal; this, however was not awarded when it became known that the author was not Italian. The volume illustrates for the first time the entire glass production of Thomas Stearns, including trial pieces, prototypes, individual pieces, small series, and also artefacts entered in the furnace catalogue. It ranges from works such as the celebrated Cappello del Doge, to the evocative Facciate di Venezia and up to the Sentinella di Venezia, an extraordinary glass sculpture of amazing polychrome richness representing the pinnacle of his artistic work in Murano