What is it?


Jeremy Popelka (b. Bloomington, Illinois 1960)






Sand-cast glass


9 x 18 x 18 in.

Credit line

Gifted 2017, James and Karen Hyde Foundation

About the Work


Jeremy Popelka’s sand-cast glass monoliths impress with their sheer presence. Taking shape between representation and abstraction, these works are inspired by Popelka’s relationship with nature and his atypical opinions about the beauty of glass.

Sand-casting—a process in which molten material is poured into an impression made in a miniature sandbox—scars the sculpture’s surface with the sand’s texture. Popelka prizes this “imperfection” as a subversion of the conventional values of glass art, which emphasize sleek surfaces and crystalline clarity. He derives his aesthetic vocabulary from the patterns of the natural world, in particular the fossil-rich environs and striking geological features surrounding his home and studio in Door County, Wisconsin. His work represents an attempt to understand nature by re-creating it. Instead of representing particular creatures and formations, Popelka constructs variations on themes that reveal what is characteristic of certain natural phenomena.

Mollusk is based on the protective exoskeletons of shelled lifeforms. The beauty of its symmetry calls to mind the purposiveness and understated perfection of the natural world. The stillness and stability of the sculpture also facilitates reflection on nature’s patience. Meditations on geological time—for instance, the 550 million years represented by the evolution of mollusks—make our preoccupation with daily routines seem trivial in comparison. Popelka’s work primes viewers to see nature anew, to appreciate Mother Nature’s canny craftsmanship, and to experience the universe as a museum unto itself.