Remembering Laura de Santillana

Through the Eyes of Her Collectors, Collaborators, and Friends
June 24, 2024
Remembering Laura de Santillana

Ippodo Gallery and Shoko Aono welcomed close friends of Laura de Santillana; Barry Friedman (art dealer), Janet Koplos (art writer), Benjamin Cobb (artist and collaborator) for an intimate evening recounting her legacy.



Barry, Janet, and Ben shared remarks that brought together the perspectives of her long-time dealer, a contributor to publications on her works, and a fellow glass artist. Though Laura is no longer living, her presence was most certainly felt in the memories evoked by their words; each experienced a different side of the artist and so their stories knit together a unique picture of her vibrant personality and brilliant approach to her artistry.



Ippodo Gallery director Shoko Aono began by weaving together her own memories of Laura during her exhibitions with Ippodo Gallery in Tokyo and Kyoto. What stood out most to Shoko about Laura was her eternal curiosity and capacity to understand and eternalize foreign beauty, such as the Japanese architectural elements that inspired some of her glass. During her time alongside Laura, Shoko saw her to be someone of genuine spirit who valued even the smallest of beauties in life and always sought to share that beauty with others. It is moving that those who knew her can recall her memory fondly in the company of her artworks.



Barry Friedman has been a gallerist for over 40 years and his represention of Laura's work began in 1997. Their collaborations covered a large breadth of her career. Barry understood Laura as much more than a glass artist; her vision was executed in a variety of materials in addition to glass that exhibited in Barry’s gallery including works in marble, wax, and bronze.



Often, she would experiment with material and form, but always she returned to the iconic glass medium in which she had mastered both form and color.  She found inspriation all about, even in the sun reflecting on the waterline of the horizon. Despite living in the floating cities of Murano and Venice all her life, still she discovered new ideas drawn from the mundane realm. Her eye was exacting, even for people. Barry was one such person who immediately recognized the caliber of her work even before her recognition on a global stage, and it was Laura who selected Barry to represent her artworks here in New York City. In his eyes, her art reached an elevated status—a level of timelessness—that will keep Laura in the heart and minds of audiences for generations to come.



Janet Koplos contributed to Venice: 3 Visions in Glass which showed with Barry Friedman in 2009-2010. Laura’s work, joined by two other glass artists from Murano, was a contemporary breath of fresh air among Murano traditionalists.


Janet saw Laura at her home and the home of her brother Alessandro in Murano. She recalls Laura had a certain poise about her, like an aura, that exhuded her artistic integrity. Always she was looking, seeing beauty in light and shadow, architecture, and the world at large. One such visit she brought a grandchild, who quickly became enamored with Laura’s prototypes, which she imparted to him as a gift. Laura was not afraid to move forward and innovate without fear of leaving behind that which had accomplish in order to realize new beauty. In this way, she truly found her voice as an artist.



Ben Cobb is the lead glassblower at the hot shop at the Museum of Glass in Tacoma Washington, where he led the teams of experts who fabricated her works for the most part during her time working in America.


Ben recalls Laura as a “tough cookie.” She had a vision and was unrelenting until she realized in glass what was previously only in her mind’s eye. The two were well matched: in fact, Ben first encountered Laura’s unique colorful tablets in the pages of a magazine when he was a teenage glassblower. He, too, thought her artworks to be a much-needed new take on the medium and the potential of glass, and he thought her work inspiring.


Upon their meeting, Ben created a tablet at Laura's order but without her methodical direction. The product closely matched her works, but the cutting, expanding, flattening, and slumping of the molten form was far from Laura’s process. Few are the artists who prize the journey more so than the result. Laura was one of them. The breath of the glassblower that remains trapped within; each touch of the wooden paddles on the exterior; the imperfection of the folded lip—Laura cherished and value these moments as the pinnacle of the glassblowing process. In consistency, she found opportunities for intimacy and in doing so a story exists within each artwork.


Laura’s collaboration with the Museum of Glass hot shop began in the late 2000s and early 2010s, and there she made many of her monumentally large works which were impossible amidst the constraints of the Muranese hot shops. Though Yellow (2013) and the three Ben’s Powders (2011)—named so after Ben Cobb—were made during her residencies at the museum, many other works in the exhibition were made during collaborations in Tacoma.


Laura de Santillana: Echoes of Her Gaze closes on June 29th.

Do not miss this rare opportunity to see the glass artist’s legendary works gathered in one place.


Model shots photographed by Keiko Taniguchi.

About the author

Jesse Gross

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