Q + A | House + Home

Hank and Paula Frankel have filled their Prairie Village home with luminous glass art

Updated: 2013-03-19T21:40:20Z

By ALICE THORSON

The Kansas City Star

He’s a professor of philosophy at UMKC and was recently awarded the Sue Tyler Friedman Medal from the Geological Society of London for his four-volume study of the continental drift controversy published by Cambridge University Press.

She’s a retired medical technologist who creates whimsical boxes out of found objects.

Their Prairie Village home is filled to bursting with pets, grandchildren and art, ranging from North Carolina face pots and yixing teapots to contemporary prints and works by local artists.

But their specialty is contemporary glass, which they began collecting in the late 1970s.

Q. How did the two of you get into collecting glass?

A. Paula went to Hall’s and bought a piece by a young glass artist from the Northwest named Craig Zweifel. That started it. We both like light.

I can see that by the way you have the work displayed and illuminated. Tell me about some of the pieces you have in the living room.

The “Flying Squirrel” piece is by Dan Dailey, a well-known American glass artist who went to the Rhode Island School of Design. At the time he made our piece, Dailey blew a number of vessels at Daum in France, a glass studio that dates to the Art Noveau period. He sandblasted the vase, allowing him to not only draw the figures of a knight and a squirrel, but also to show them in high relief.

The piece shaped like rounded glacial rocks with the deer and arrow images is by William Morris, another leading American glass artist. He also did the vase with the mottled surface and Stone Age glyphs.

And that wavy-edged bowl form with the stripes is a Dale Chihuly?

Chihuly came here in the early 1980s and did a workshop at KU when they had a glass program. I was a groupie and went and watched him, and he sold us this early “Macchia” for $1,000. He had us write the check to the KU student glass club so they could buy a new fan for their glass studio. He also gave us two of his drawings.

Glass is a frozen liquid. You can freeze the form once it begins to cool down. What Chihuly was good at was showing the effects of gravity and centripetal force on liquid glass. Collecting a hot gather of glass on the end of his blow pipe, he would spin and shape it while molten, eventually freezing it into a desired shape.

Have you stayed in touch?

We met Dale eight to 10 years later at Sherry Leedy, who represents him locally and shows the most high-end glass in town.

Are there other local places that carry glass?

In Kansas City there was a store called Peaches En Regalia in Westport owned by Jeff Wolf. He used to carry art glass, and we bought a few pieces. We bought an Orrefors piece from David Stewart, who ran a shop called La Omega, where he carried Deco and Art Noveau glass and ceramics by Clarice Cliff. We bought a Daum piece at La Omega, and we met Bruce Hartman there, when he was still a graduate student at Washington University. Now he’s director of the Nerman Museum.

You also bought from galleries out of town?

A. Yes. In Washington, D.C., we bought a piece by Ann Warff, a leading glass artist from Sweden. Warff worked for the Swedish glass firm, Kosta Boda. We also purchased work from Habitat Glass in Michigan. Paula is from Columbus, Ohio, so we went to the Hawk Gallery there and bought some glass works.

Have you every tried working with glass?

I made a paperweight at KU. At one point I was going to do a book on art glass. I did write the “Aesthetics of Glass” entry in the Oxford University Press Encyclopedia of Aesthetics.

In that piece you talk about the importance of Czech glass, and the seminal role of the husband and wife team of Stanislav Libensky and Jaroslva Brychtova. Have you collected any of their work?

The Czech Republic is where much contemporary glass started. The amber-colored abstraction in the living room is by Latchezar Boyadjiev, who studied with the Liebenskys. Their influence is apparent in that it is a molded piece made with a single color. The saturation changes given the thickness of the glass, and the matte finish keeps light inside.

You also have some amazing work in the office upstairs.

The boat-shaped piece is by French Art Noveau artist Emile Galle. There’s a pink layer, a frosted layer and then blue and green layers. Each layer is acid-etched to create the with floral imagery.

Bertil Vallien is another famous contemporary glass artist from Sweden. Like Dan Dailey, he creates his images by sandblasting. In our piece, Vallien sandblasted interior layers of the glass to create an image of two guys fencing. He used the same technique to create the wolf-man on the smaller blue and yellow vessel we own.

What other techniques are represented in your collection?

The Jon Kuhn piece is an example of cold glass technique. He constructed it from glass slabs that he cut and glued together. The glass gives you internal form, which changes as you move around the piece.

We have an Antoine Leperlier, who is known for his use of pate de verre, in which tiny bits of glass are glued and melted together in a mold to create the color effects and control the shape. Ours is made of three pieces — the top and bottom parts are pate de verre.

And this elaborate piece with all the different elements?

It’s an example of lampwork, which involves using a hand-held burner to shape the glass — the process you sometimes see at carnivals. The artist, Ginny Ruffner, titled it “Out of the Frying Pan Into the Fire,” and the piece symbolically describes her breakup with this guy who was a golfer and a writer. The whole shape is a heart. It includes a big arrow, representing cupid’s arrow, and the blue shape in the center represents her sadness, she’s feeling so blue. The musical note and the rolling pin and TV stand for her support system, which included a musician and a pastry chef and a TV producer.

Any mishaps?

The problem with glass is that it does break. I dropped a Vallien piece, and we had a cat that destroyed a couple pieces.

I’ve seen some of Paula’s boxes at the Late Show, and I see works by many Late Show artists on your walls.

We bought several Nora Othics and our whole basement is a gallery of Russell Easterwood. There’s also a big one in the dining room. We have a large Darwin Arevalo on the second floor.

And the Louise Bourgeois print?

A. (Paula) We bought a lot of work from Jan Weiner Gallery. When my grandmother died, she left me $6,000. Jan Weiner had this print for $8,000, but she sold it to me for $6,000.

To reach Alice Thorson call 816.234-4763 or email athorson@kcstar.com.

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