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Artist fuses glass, heat to create 'dance' vision

Kinnickinnic-based artist Bonnie Rubinstein also created this fused-glass piece named Sheer Inspiration. <i>Submitted photos</i>1 / 2
The Hudson-based Phipps Center for the Arts features eight pieces of local artist Bonnie Rubinstein's fused-glass works, including this one titled Dreamer's Amulet made with glass and touches of stainless steel.2 / 2

When town of Kinnickinnic artist Bonnie Rubinstein creates a piece of fused-glass artwork, the vision might be for something as big as 20 feet or as small as a piece of jewelry.

She works with one or all three kilns in her studio, often melding glass at 1,450 degrees and 'firing it' several times to create the right look.

Some projects require as many as 60 hours of kiln time.

"It's a challenging medium," said Rubinstein, who creates her works in a former dairy barn converted to a glass-fusion studio.

The Journal featured her specialty work five years ago plus covered local installations of her art: The Eco Art Legacy at the River Falls High School in 2010 and River Fusion at the UW River Falls University Center in 2008.

A recent exhibition announcement reveals that eight pieces of Rubinstein's work will be displayed in Gallery One at the Hudson-based Phipps Center for the Arts until Jan. 22.

Rubenstein says fused glass is an exciting medium with a lot of possibilities.

In an artist's statement for the current exhibit, she describes the fusion process as a "dance" with glass that often involves metaphor, fantasy, reality and draws from nature, science and philosophy.

The artwork reflects light, features dimension and brings colors to life. Rubinstein said she's drawn to glass's dynamic energy.

Creative watch

The artist stays busy, too, keeping her eye out for competitive art-proposal invitations; doing residential, commercial and public work; and watching for exhibit opportunities.

"I applied over a year ago," said Rubinstein about the Phipps display.

A keen eye on opportunity resulted in a commissioned project for the Children's Hospital in both St. Paul and Minneapolis.

Rubinstein said the work consists of four pieces, three in the Minneapolis facility's Emergency Department, and one in the St. Paul facility's elevator lobby. The last was installed a few weeks ago.

She said the pieces focus on children and draw on the different multicultural aspects of people who visit the hospital. Each piece measures about four feet tall, five feet wide.

Images of her artwork, as well as opportunities to sponsor the individual pieces, are available through the Children's Arts and Healing and Urban Renewal Project at

Rubinstein's other projects in recent years include not only some residential and commercial but also work at UW Whitewater, where three large and two small pieces of her work hang.

As a result of other commissioned projects, she also has work on display at UW Madison and Fort Douglas, and she's done a project for the state DNR.

Rubinstein said she expects public-institution work to slow or stop since the governor "killed" the Percent for Art program.

This program allotted 2/10 of 1% (.002) of a state building's new or renovation construction budget to be used for artwork in the facility being built or expanded.

The artist said she just completed four chandeliers for the Edina,Minn.-based Galleria restaurant the People's Organic Coffee and Wine Café. The project involved another technique of putting bubbles underneath the glass.

"I experiment with textures a lot," said Rubinstein, adding that most pieces have a multi-dimensional look.

She's also able to take an existing design, such as a team logo, corporate trademark or other image and create a fused-glass piece that retains the design.

Rubinstein has a Web site,, and a Facebook page. The artist also says she offers scheduled tours of her glass-fusion studio.

She likes creating all kinds of fused-glass art but says her background includes other glass media as well as architecture, urban and landscape design and environmental science.

She enjoys using her knowledge and experience to create and influence fused-glass pieces ranging from jewelry, sinks and chandeliers to big wall-sized pieces of light-catching art.

Visitors to the Phipps before Jan. 22 will also see work by several other regional artists: Ceramics by Marion Angelica of Minneapolis; watercolors by Catherine Hearding of Lake Elmo, Minn.; encaustic paintings by Selene Plum of Chicago; acrylic paintings by Cynthia Starkweather-Nelson of Mendota Heights, Minn.; and mixed media by Karl Unnasch of Chatfield, Minn.