Tag Archives: Therman Statom

Holly Kranker

January 22, 2016 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Holly Kranker has always made things. She learned about fabrics and textiles from her mom, and learned the art of constructing things out of nearly any material from her dad. When it came time to attend college, picking a major was an easy decision.

She traveled just across from her hometown of Frontenac, Kansas, to attend Pittsburg State University, earning a BFA in commercial art and also gaining a connection to Omaha.

“Jun (Kaneko) and Ree (Schonlau) had a residency called Mission Clay, where they were working with college students,” Kranker says.

Following college, Kranker began applying to design firms and ad agencies, but fate, it seems, took her in a different artistic direction. At the recommendation of Schonlau, she worked as a personal assistant for glass artist Therman Statom in his studio from 2008 to 2012.

She is now the Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts’  residency program manager.

“Heather Johnson [the organization’s residency program manager in 2013] approached me to cover her maternity leave,” Kranker says. “I started working [at Bemis] that summer and handed it back to her after maternity leave.”

She wasn’t unemployed for long. A month later, Johnson left, and Kranker took the job full-time.

“We are an international residency program. We’re talking about how our programs function. The conversations are going on in Amsterdam, across Europe, about how we have similar stories. That’s inspiring to me.”

Working at Bemis also helps her be more creative, more artistic. She applied, and was accepted to, the recent Joslyn show Art Seen.

“They had an open call, so I submitted,” Kranker says. “They [committee members Karen and Bill Arning of Houston] came back and said we want to do a studio visit with you. I was totally floored.”

Participating in Art Seen allowed her to create a piece for Art in Odd Places, a sound and performance work that showed in Minneapolis in September 2015.

“I ran on the treadmill, which was hooked up to a musical computer program,” Kranker says. “I changed instruments every hour and it recorded and played in real time. I was on it 10 hours a day for four days.”

In the piece, she wavers between artist and athlete. Transitions, one might say, which is an appropriate description for her.

“It’s kind of funny how my time in Bemis has been a time of transition,” Kranker says. “Of getting to know an international community, which is pretty phenomenal.”


Through A Glass Brightly

June 24, 2015 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

This article was published in the May/June 2015 edition of Omaha Magazine.

Halfway through our interview, Therman Statom apologizes. He didn’t anticipate our conversation
lasting so long, and he has an appointment at Children’s Hospital he doesn’t want to break.
The internationally renowned glass artist has been working on large-scale cloud pieces for a new
pediatric wing, and although he’s technically completed them, an 8-year-old girl is contributing the finishing touches. “She has cancer, and her father says she used to hate going to the hospital,” he explains, “but now she can’t wait to come” because of this project.

That’s why we take an hour-and-a-half break. The young girl is meeting Statom to talk about the project, and he doesn’t want to cancel or keep her waiting. That commitment to children defines much of the artist’s career. He may be acclaimed for his airy glass houses, chairs, and ladders, but it’s his passion for making a difference in young people’s lives for which he’d prefer to be known.

That passion goes back to his own formative years growing up in Washington, D.C. Although the son of physician, he was a typical “problem child,” going through high school after high school. Unlike most troubled kids who had run-ins with the law, however, Statom did something different: he hung out at the Smithsonian’s Freer Gallery of Art. “The Smithsonian was like a home to me. It was like an extra room in my house. It’s where I found myself,” he recounts. “I was there so much, I got befriended by a curator, and he got me a job mixing clay.”

That job triggered an interest that eventually led to his attending the Rhode Island School of Design in the early 1970s, where he pursued clay as an artistic medium. “In clay I made a bunch of ugly pots. They were all brown,” he laughs. “Then I started blowing glass, and I went from very traditional to really exploring. Glass was immediate. You didn’t have to fire it two or three times. You could go into the studio and have something the next day.”

He soon discovered a particular talent for working in his new material. Statom created an arced sculpture out of clear glass cones, which earned him advanced standing at the school and enabled him to graduate early. From there, he went on to earn his MFA in 1978 from the Pratt Institute School of Art and Design, where he made the jump from blowing glass to working with sheets of it. “I didn’t want to be limited,” he explains. “It’s about exploring and questioning creatively and the actual act of making. It’s about challenging yourself and learning as an individual. I have a real interest in that.”

That interest prompted him to push the boundaries of glass as art, often using the material in unexpected ways. “I like to paint on translucent surfaces,” he says. “I consider myself a painter, and I think of glass as a canvas. If I had it my way, I’d paint on air.”

For years, museums have been taking notice of Statom’s unorthodox approach, and today his work is in the permanent collections of, among others, the Detroit Institute of Arts, the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, GA, the Cincinnati Art Museum, and the place where it all began: the Smithsonian, which features one of his signature painted pieces in the Renwick Gallery at the American Art Museum.

For as important as his own creative success is, however, Statom isn’t interested in his identity as an artist. “You don’t do anything unless you’re actively making a difference,” he emphasizes. “It’s not just narcissistic. It’s about making kids happy here and now. You have to engage. I’m more intrigued with helping people.”

To that end, he’s worked with children through a broad range of organizations, including a children’s hospital in Norfolk, VA, and the U.S. Department of State’s Art in Embassies program, through which he’s led workshops in such far-flung places as Mozambique and Turkey. Closer to home, he’s worked with the Omaha Public School’s Native American Indian Education Department, Kanesville Alternative School in Council Bluffs, Yates Alternative School in Gifford Park, and even local
Girl Scout troops.

No matter where he works with kids, the goal remains the same: to affect change in children through art. “I have kids who claim that activities in art save their lives,” Statom says. “That’s pretty big.”

Another hour into the interview, Statom glances at the clock. “It’s time to go,” he announces. There’s another girl he doesn’t want to keep waiting—his daughter. She’s about to get out of school, and just like the little girl at the hospital, he has no intention of keeping her waiting.