Beautiful results when fire and water mix

Glass art exhibit by Brian Frus at The Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens (Photo by Dustin Wooten)

Glass art exhibit by Brian Frus at The Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens (Photo by Dustin Wooten)


Mixing fire and water usually results in the absence of one over the other, but glass sculptor Brian Frus successfully mixed one of those elements with the idea of the other to create a breathtaking piece of art that celebrates the proclaimed Year of the River.

Frus is one of 10 diverse, recognized regional artists working in different media to be invited by the Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens to participate in its Reflections exhibit, on display through Oct. 18.

“I was honored to be one of the artists in whom the Cummer trusted to create a museum quality artwork for this show,” said Frus, a San Marco resident and assistant professor of glass art at Jacksonville University. While eight of the other artists were paired with pieces from the Cummer’s permanent collection and asked to respond with their own work, Frus and poet Tiffany Melanson created works from the “blank canvas” of their own imagination.

A most challenging piece

His creation, River Table, is an intricate look at the St. Johns River as it transitions from fresh water to brackish to salt water both above and beneath its surface. During the process of creating the glass sculpture Frus engaged with many people and all kinds of new techniques and ideas.

“Because I wanted to celebrate the beauty and diversity of our river in a fairly realistic way, I met with marine scientists to better inform myself about the plants and animals in our river,” Frus explained. “I learned about technology and partnered with Rubin Ironworks to have my glass tabletops cut using a water-jet machine.”

Brian Frus adds detail to a glass turtle for his sculpture.

Brian Frus adds detail to a glass turtle for his sculpture.

The sculptor said the sheer scale and engineering complexity of River Table made it the most challenging piece he has created to date.

“Try to imagine the engineering to embed hardware within hand-sculpted glass parts so it will all line up and become a functional table … it took pages of notes and more than a few test pieces to settle on a method that would work” Frus related. “Making the glass parts is a wonderful and exciting part for me. At times monotonous (I sculpted nearly 60 table legs to get the 40 used in the finished sculpture), but mostly a unique opportunity for me to push my own skills. Sculpting the different creatures was the most fun, and also the most challenging.”

Playing with fire

As an artist and educator, Frus said his job at JU is the perfect marriage of those pursuits.

When asked what initially intrigued him about that art medium, Frus exclaimed, “Playing with fire to create beautiful art! … What’s not to like? Glassblowing is a very challenging, focused, and intense art-making process. I love working with my hands and enjoy the dance-like movements of the glass-sculpting process.”

Most of his large glasswork and glassblowing is done at Jacksonville University, but Frus also has a home “torch working” studio where he creates smaller detail oriented glass pieces, such as the ladybugs climbing about River Table.

Although Frus does not have a gallery, his work does have a following, especially among organizations which desire unique trophies that exemplify the meaning of the award.

He has been commissioned to create many awards in his career, among them The Cultural Council’s Awards for  Excellence in the Arts (commissioned twice); Guardian of the Arts for the Cathedral Arts Project (2014); an award/gift for Artis Gilmore from Jacksonville University for his special service and in celebration of his induction into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame (2011); Pro-Bono Awards for Jacksonville Area Legal Aid (twice); and The Ninah May Holden Cummer Awards for the Cummer Museum (2015).

By Kate A. Hallock

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