Our Glowing Future
Michael Stusser on Preston Singletary's unique form of storytelling.
I first saw Preston Singletary’s work in the back parking lot of a shitty Palm Springs hotel around 1996. The asphalt had to be hot enough to torch a Pterodactyl egg, and Preston and his team of glassblowers were out there doing an exhibition in tank tops and flip-flops, spinning blobs of glass on red-hot iron pokers, forming volcanic goo into awe-inspiring totems. That was when I could have afforded the genius, too.
Preston Singletary is a glass blowing artist from my hometown of Seattle, and specializes in creating classic Native American work from his Tlingit cultural heritage into glass sculptures. Preston molds his own unique artistry into incredible blown glass works– the totems and ravens, canoes and whales that you’re probably familiar with from Native dance ceremonies or history books or folkloric tales of wisdom.
I think that what inspires me most about Preston’s work is that he has adapted and advanced his great ancestral artistry into a contemporary medium. Incorporating traditional European glassblowing with his own (underrepresented) indigenous cultural traditions, he has invented a new, innovative genre. Best of all, the works literally shine like a hopeful light into the future– one glowing and gorgeous and visionary in its own way. We can all harken back to various tribes–rich in cultural traditions that cross race and ethnicity and economic structures. Preston’s work makes me feel like we can evolve, while holding on to the best of our sometimes forgotten past. Today Preston’s work is in the British Museum and the Smithsonian. While I kick myself that I didn’t buy the blue whale he displayed in the lobby of that crappy hotel for $1,500, I’m delighted the world can see it in museums around the world, sparking artists of all traditions to rethink the way we tell our stories.
Michael A. Stusser is a gonzo journalist and award-winning documentary filmmaker.
Preston Singletary (born 1963) is a Native American glass artist from San Francisco, California. His early work was inspired by European Modernist artists. He is best known for his work exploring traditional Tlingit themes.