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  • Toledo Free Press

"Pill Spill" Offers Late-Summer Thrill at Toledo Museum of Art

Beverly Fishman is continuing her artistic study of the human body and the pharmaceutical industry through a new medium with her exhibit “Pill Spill” at the Toledo Museum of Art Glass Pavilion.

The installation features 120 glass capsules representing pills, which are placed between the walls of the entrance. According to Fishman, this creates the analogy of the Glass Pavilion as a human body digesting the pills.

“I’ve had a long-standing relationship with my interest with the body, science, technology and the pharmaceutical industry,” Fishman said. “It’s been about an 11-year investigation and has taken on many iterations. I love the idea of something so incredibly old like glass blowing dealing with the contemporary condition. This gorgeous pill is like a placebo. If you see this large grouping of them, they might do something to the viewer. The viewer wouldn’t have to take a pill. They could just experience something.”

Fishman’s installation is part of the Guest Artist Pavilion Project (GAPP). She was named the 2010 GAPP artist-in-residence and worked on the project with staff from the Glass Pavilion.

“I had ideas I thought would work really well with glass,” Fishman said. “We started several projects, but ‘Pill Spill’ really snowballed and became the big project. Once this project started to really roll, we were in sync with each other. It just took on a life of its own.”

She worked mostly alongside Jeff Mack and Doug Patterson, with Mack handling all of the glass blowing duties.

“We had a lot of discussions about color, because it is a huge part of my work,” Fishman said. “When Doug and Jeff came to my studio, we started to get the ball rolling. My sense of color is very electric. There are qualities of color that normally are in glass, and I was asking for color that I would say was more futuristic.”

The project is Fishman’s first time working with glass, so she generated ideas and directed Mack and Patterson on the execution.

“I’d worked with resin and chrome, but I’d never worked with glass,” Fishman said. “Glass is like entering a new world. The beauty of it is so seductive. There’s issues of transparency and detail of pattern. Things I thought I was going to do, I let go of and moved through this process.”

Fishman plans to continue working with glass after this installation, but she has no intentions of learning how to blow glass.

“I’ve been seduced by the material and what it can do,” she said. “I’m going to attempt to keep working in glass, but it would take years to catch up to where the glass blowers are. I like working with the ideas in collaboration.”

The majority of Fishman’s artistic experience is with painting. She serves as head of the painting department at Michigan’s Cranbrook Academy of Art and has a painting in the permanent collection at the Toledo Museum of Art. The painting, “Night Kandyland” is part of her “Kandyland Series,” comparing pharmaceutical pills to candy. The top of the painting contains logos of legal and illegal drugs. The bottom half looks abstract, but contains EEG patterns to represent the body.

“I’m interested in how technology has imaged the body and keeps re-imaging our body,” Fishman said. “Technology continues to grow and change. I started out using the microscope and cells. Those images look incredibly romantic compared to MRIs today. MRIs look like Las Vegas signs. The images, the way technology represents us, has changed over the course of years. My intent is to keep up with that change in my work and comment on our existence today.”

“Pill Spill” is on display through September in the Glass Pavilion, located across the street from TMA at 2445 Monroe St. Fishman will discuss her work Sept. 16 at 7:30 p.m. in the GlasSalon. The event is free and open to the public.

“The Glass Pavilion gave me such a huge opportunity to think about the body,” Fishman said. “It is like seeing through the exterior into an interior. It read like a body, like the building itself was digesting the pills. The building is so powerful. The architecture is brilliant. The quality of light that comes through allows the glass piece to change over the time of the day. It is remarkable. Natural light is so beautiful. The building itself became such a big inspiration.”

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