25, No. 11, Dec 1, 2005
exhibition shares emeritus professors’ love of contemporary glass
Liz deAvila, News Bureau Intern
photo to enlarge
by Larry Kanfer
Jon and Judith Liebman, UI professors emeritus of
engineering, have loaned the Krannert Art Museum 31
pieces of their comtemporary glass art collection
for its exhibition, “Eye, Form, Symbol.”
The exhibition, on view through Dec. 31, is the first
of its size at the museum to feature only contemporary
Jon and Judith Liebman,
UI professors emeritus of engineering, began collecting contemporary
glass art 20 years ago. What started out as finding an attractive centerpiece
for their dining room table has turned into a contemporary glass art
collection with an estimated 120 pieces, featuring a variety of glass
artists and techniques.
The Krannert Art Museum has 31 of those pieces on display in the exhibition
“Eye, Form, Symbol: The Jon and Judith Liebman Collection of Contemporary
Sculpture in Glass.” The exhibition will be on view through Dec.
31, with a planned Second Sunday Gallery Tour at 1 p.m. Dec. 11 led
by the Liebmans.
“Eye, Form, Symbol” is the first exhibition of its size
at the museum to feature only contemporary glass sculpture. Curator
Michael W. Conner noted in the exhibition catalog that each piece in
the exhibition was chosen either for its eye-catching radiance, its
bold sculptural form, or its imaginative use of symbols.
When looking for
a piece to add to the collection, “We place a high priority on
creativity,” the Liebmans said. “We have tried to make the
collection diverse in many dimensions.”
The couple has traveled the world, visiting art galleries and glass
shows in search of unique and innovative glass art. The long list of
countries where the Liebmans have purchased glass art includes Austria,
Belgium, Canada, France, Italy, Japan, Luxemburg and Sweden.
“People who are collecting glass … it is a disease,”
Jon said. “You get attracted to glass, no matter what.”
The Liebmans said they realized they were glass collectors after owning
five or six pieces. Judith said it was a trip she and Jon made to Providence,
R.I., to visit a glass artist’s studio in the early 1990s, that
“I remember thinking we were flying to the East Coast just to
go to an artist’s studio,” she said, laughing. “What
are we doing? We must be collecting.”
photo to enlarge
by L. Brian Stauffer
Carlson, Prägnanz Series (1988), granite and
glass laminated with Vitrolite and industrial safety
Although the Liebmans
said they have slowed down since they first started, they do not have
plans to stop collecting any time soon. With so many pieces, it’s
hard to imagine the Liebmans could appreciate each one equally, but
both said it would be impossible to choose even a few favorites from
“I could choose a favorite piece, but by the time you print the
article it won’t be my favorite piece,” Jon said. “It
changes day to day.”
Judith added that
glass is more than just a three-dimensional sculpture.
“It also has an interior,” she said. “It brings you
in, and depending on your mood, you’re brought into different
photo to enlarge
by L. Brian Stauffer
Beck, “Butterfly and Pin” (1999), cast
glass and steel
up to 5 feet tall to only 2 1/2 inches high, the Liebmans own just about
every type of contemporary glass art imaginable. Their most valuable
glass sculpture is “Mountain Lion” from the Canopic Jar
Series of world-renowned glass artist William Morris. Made in 1993,
it has a lid in the shape of a mountain lion head and measures just
over 2 feet high. The Liebmans would not say how much they paid for
the piece, but said it’s probably worth 10 times that amount now.
“These pieces made his reputation,” Jon said. “He
was a star before; these made him a superstar.”
Another important piece is “Rectangular Cube Space,” by
Stanislav Libensky and Jaroslava Brychtova. The Czech couple, better
known as Libensky/Brychtova, made the uncommonly shaped piece in 1994
from mold-cast glass.
“It’s not nearly as valuable (as the Canopic Jar), but historically
it’s very important,” Jon said.
Having been on the UI faculty from 1972 to 1996, the Liebmans own several
pieces by glass artists with a connection to campus. Among them is former
art and design professor William Carlson’s “Prägnanz
Series,” made of glass, granite and industrial safety glass. Pieces
by university graduates Paul Nelson and Jon Wolfe also are on display
at the museum.
While at the UI, Jon worked in environmental and civil engineering and
served as head of the department of civil engineering from 1978-1984.
Judith taught operations and research in mechanical and industrial engineering
and was vice chancellor for research and dean of the graduate college
The Liebmans said sharing their glass collection has been a way to give
back to the place they have spent most of their professional careers.
Eventually their entire glass art collection will be donated to the
Krannert Art Museum. which Jon said did a “superb” job lighting
and displaying the exhibit.
Kathleen Harleman, Krannert Art Museum director, said the museum was
fortunate to have a broad cross-section of the Liebman’s collection
on loan, and that previous gifts from them have enriched the museum’s
permanent art collection.
“Judith and Jon Liebman’s passion for contemporary glass
is palpable,” Harleman said. “They live with glass, inform
themselves about the medium, and share their fine objects and knowledge
with an ever growing community.”