Stephen Rolfe Powell

Stephen Rolfe Powell 2.jpg

November 26, 1951 ~ March 16, 2019

 Stephen Rolfe Powell was born in 1951 in Birmingham, Alabama. After receiving a Bachelor of Arts in Painting and Ceramics at Centre College, Powell went on to earn a Master of Fine Arts in Ceramics at Louisiana State University. It was while at LSU, between 1980 and 1983, that Powell had his first experience in glass blowing. Glass has been a full-time obsession for him since then, whether he is teaching it or producing his own work.

 Powell’s work is exhibited nationally and internationally. He has participated in workshops, demonstrations and lectures all over the US, as well as in Russia, Ukraine, Australia, New Zealand, and Japan. He has demonstrated at several Glass Art Society conferences, and at the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City, Utah. The highlight of his travels was an exhibition of his work at "Venezia Aperto Vetro" in the Palazzo Ducale in Venice, Italy, where he was one of only eight American artists invited.

Artist Statement

My blown work reflects my continued exploration and development of the asymmetrical forms that we started with the "Whacko" series. The asymmetry is tempered by the order of the pattern and the physical balance of the piece. Our nontraditional techniques of blowing glass have resulted in new technical challenges, such as developing the neck shape with the piece hanging upside down.

The postures of these pieces, hopefully, reflect liveliness that references cranes, storks and other long-necked creatures in nature.  Also, I am concerned with natural bulbous and linear sculptural shapes that reflect growth or inflation. A serendipitous result of the new forms has been the exposure of the insides of the pieces.

Color continues to inspire me. The recent sunrises and sunsets up on my knob (Kentucky small mountain or big hill) have been particularly brilliant and expressive because of frequent storms and, probably, global warming. 

Working with my crew, not distracted by anything, being able to totally focus on the hot mass of molten glass on the end of the pipe, mesmerized by the pattern of murrine, this is what I want, time stands still or, at least, goes to slow motion. Working in the zone!

My work is mostly about color.  The artists that have the most influence on my work are Mark Rothko, Kenneth Noland, Claude Monet, and Georges Seurat.  In addition to these influences, I have always been drawn to the physicalness and directness of Jackson Pollock.

I was drawn to the process of glassblowing because of the immediacy and intensity.  I have always been something of a pyromaniac, as my background in ceramics was mostly involved with the raku firing.  I do have a love of fire.

As for the pieces, I hope that my color combinations are unique and that they trigger emotive reactions.  The shapes of my pieces are influenced by the gestures and postures of the human figure.  A final element of my work that is often overlooked is the texture created by the thousands of colored beads applied to the surface.  Museums and galleries may not like it, but I encourage viewers to touch my pieces.  I must admit that I take a certain delight in catching a viewer fondling a piece of mine.

 Fused Glass Panels by Stephen Rolfe Powell

While these glass panels are a departure from my more established blown glass pieces, they still address many of the same issues that have surrounded my work since the beginning of my career. They seem to take me back to my early “abstract expressionist” paintings that I was doing in the 1970’s, before I discovered glass. Then, and now, the great color field painters such as Gene Davis, Kenneth Noland, Morris Louis and Mark Rothko influenced me.  And, to some degree, Georges Seurat and the whole idea of the pointillist approach to color.

 I have always been intrigued by the emotive potential of color and its ability to have a positive intrinsic effect on the viewer.  I am interested in creating a pleasurable experience for the viewer that is based on beauty. I hope the viewer will be drawn in to the panels and take a very close look (microscopic) at the details, a somewhat cellular structuring of colored patterns that can be found throughout nature and science. I hope viewing these panels, both from afar and close-up, gives everyone a reprieve from whatever they might be dealing with, even just for a moment.

With the latest group of curved glass panels, I am continuing to explore various magnification points as I look for the perfect focal point.  Where does life began, where does it end?   How do we fit into the big bang, if there was one? These new arch forms reach out in to space and force viewer interaction.  Hopefully the viewer not only moves in and out of the piece but also back and forth, and up and down.  Arch forms, whether centenary or sprung, have always fascinated me because of their beauty and strength.



1983   Louisiana State University Master of Fine Arts in Ceramics, Baton Rouge, Louisiana  

1980   Birmingham-Southern College Alabama Teaching Certificate, Birmingham, Alabama

1975   The Provincetown Painting Workshop, Provincetown, Massachusetts

1974   Centre College Bachelor of Arts in Painting and Ceramics, Danville, Kentucky

Selected Exhibitions


2013   Psychedelic Mania, Stephen Rolfe Powell’s Dance with Glass.Huntsville Museum of Art

2009   The Italian Influence in Glass Bergstrom-Mahler Museum Neenah, WI

           Holidaze Owensboro Museum of Fine Art Owensboro, KY

           Cheongju International Craft Biennale2009 Cheongju Arts Centre Cheongju, South Korea

           Jellies: Living Art (3 yr loan) Tennessee Aquarium Chattanooga, TN

           Orchid Daze: Gorgeous Meets Glass Atlanta Botanical Garden Atlanta, GA

           Hot Stuff in the Hothouse Racine Art Museum Racine, WI

           Infinite Riches in a Little Room Louisville Visual Art Association Louisville, KY

2008   Centre College Art Faculty Show Community Arts Center Danville, KY

           Big Ideas/Small Packages Bergstrom-Mahler Museum Neenah, WI

           10th Anniversary Exhibit Janice Mason Art Museum Cadiz, KY

2007   A Touch of Glass Racine Art Museum, Racine, WI

           Under the Influence Kentucky Artisan Center at Berea Berea, KY

           Murrini Mystique Pismo Gallery Denver, CO

2007   November to Remember Carnegie Arts Center Covington, KY



Auckland Museum, Auckland, Australis

Baptist Memorial Hospital/DeSoto, Southaven, MS

Birmingham Museum of Fine Arts, Birmingham, AL

Centre College, Danbury, KY

Chrysler Museum, Norfolk, VA

Cincinnati Art Museum, Cincinnati, OH

Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, OH

Corning Museum of Glass, Corning, NY

Detroit Institute of Arts, Detroit, MI

Donnelley Printing Corporation, Chicago, IL

Grounds for Sculpture, Hamilton, NJ

H.E. Sheikh Hamad Bin Jassim Bin Jabor Al-Thani, Foreign Minister, Doha, Qatar

Humana Corporation, Louisville, KY

Haystack Mountain School, Deer Isle, ME

Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia

Hunter Museum of American Art, Chattanooga, TN

Huntsville Museum of Art, Huntsville, AL

Imagine Museum, Sarasota, FL

Lamar Dodd Art Center, LaGrange, GA

Lvov Art Institute, Lvov, Ukraine

Mobile Museum of Fine Art, Mobile, AL

Montgomery Museum of Fine Art, Montgomery, AL

Muskegon Museum of Art, Muskegon MI

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA

Racine Art Museum, Racine, WI

Red May Glass Museum, Vishny Volochok, Russia

Regent Hotel, Le Plume, Hong Kong

Sydney College of Art, Sydney, Australia

Tropicana Corporation, St Petersburg, FL

The Auckland Museum, Auckland, New Zealand

The Corning Museum of Glass, Corning, New York

Wagga Wagga City Art Gallery, Wagga Wagga, Australia

Wustum Museum of Fine Arts, Racine, WI


Selected Awards and Commissions


2012  Distinguished Educator James Renwick Alliance

2011  7 World Trade Center, Commission with private funds, New York, NY

          Massachusetts College of Art, Public Art Commission for New Residence Hall,

          Boston, MA

          Athletic Hall of Fame Inductee Centre College

2010  The Wells Fargo Center, Commission with private funds, Norfolk, VA

          Artist Award Governor's Award in Arts

2009  The Wheeler School Public Art Initiative Commission with private funds, Providence, RI

2008  Overall Excellence Southeastern Library Association, 2007 Southern Books Competition:

          Stephen Rolfe Powell Glassmaker

2007  The Palm Springs Art Museum, Commission with private funds, Palm Springs, CA

2005  The Corning Museum of Glass Rakow Commission, Corning, NY

          Magnificent Extravagance: Artists and Opulence, Racine Art Museum, Racine, WI

2004  UrbanGlass Award for New Talent, Brooklyn, NY

          Acorn Award Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education

          Intersection, Bullseye Connection Gallery, Portland, OR

          ARTform, International Pavilion, West Palm Beach, FL

2003  Distinguished Alumnus Award Centre College Alumni Association

2002  Luminosity, Quadrivium Gallery, Sydney, Australia

          Glass Palimpsest, Sarah Doyle Gallery, Brown University, Providence, RI

          Between 2 Spaces - Air/Liquid/Solid, Jam Factory Gallery, Adelaide, Australia

2001  The Jutta Cuny-Franz Foundation Supporting Award, Dusseldorf, Germany

          Sixth Annual Rude Osolnik Award Kentucky's Most Accomplished Community    


2000  Glass Art Society Conference Takako Sano Scholarship

          Kentucky Professor of the Year Council for the Advancement and Support of Teaching /

          Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching

          Essentially Canberra, Earl Lu Gallery, Singapore (traveling exhibition)

          Learning to breathe, Foyer Gallery, Canberra School of Art, Canberra, Australia

1999  Canberra School of Art Drawing Prize, Canberra School of Art Graduate Materials Award

          Institute of the Arts Student Association Grant

1998  Canberra School of Art Graduate Award, David Thomas Foundation Travel Grant, Australia

          Aperto Vetro - International New Glass 1998, Venice, Italy

          North American Glass 1998, The Guilford Handcraft Center, CT

1997  Art School Alliance Trust Fund Award, Massachusetts College of Art, Boston, MA

          Honorable Mention, Elusive Mind, Copenhagen and Elsinore, Denmark

          Young Glass International 1997, Glasmuseum, Ebeltoft, Denmark

1995  Outstanding Alumnus Award Indian Springs School