- Associated Press - Sunday, August 3, 2014

FRUITLAND, Md. (AP) - There’s Louis Comfort Tiffany, whose broad array of glass artwork in the late 19th and early 20th centuries demonstrated the decorative quality of the malleable medium to the hilt.

And then there’s Steven Durow, Tiffany’s self-proclaimed antithesis.

The Fruitland sculptor and Salisbury University art professor seeks to shatter age-old beliefs about what glass can do. Forget vases and Christmas tree ornaments. In Durow’s often-bulky sculptures, the aesthetic qualities of glass play a secondary role to its aptitude for conveying ideas, a vessel signifying more than what it is.

Durow, 40, is entering his second year as head of the university’s glass program, the only one of its kind in Maryland and one of only three in the Washington, D.C., region. Before that, he held a similar position at New Orleans’ Tulane University, where he received his master’s in fine arts.

His job, he says, is to figure out what his students want to do and help them do it. That means teaching all the disciplines involved in glass-making, including the ancient art of glass-blowing.

But if he finds a student getting enamored with making glasses and basins, he shows them an item from his office: a garishly painted vase he bought at a Ross store for $13.

“Do you really want to compete with this?” he will ask.

Never heard of Durow? If you have visited any number of medium- and large-size cities across the country in the past decade, you may have seen his work. His art has been displayed at museums and galleries in Chicago; Cincinnati; Colorado Springs, Colorado; Grand Rapids, Michigan; Key West, Florida, and New Orleans, among other places.

In Colorado Springs, Durow’s work, “Crescent,” was one of a dozen pieces selected out of 65 applicants to adorn the city’s streets for a year.

“This was really outstanding,” one of the jurors, artist Jimmy Descant, said of the piece, according to the Colorado Springs Gazette. “I know this person’s work from seeing it in New Orleans way before Katrina, and it resonated with me. His work is phenomenal, it’s striking.”

Soon, Salisbury will be joining that list of cities. The developer of the Rivers Edge Apartments and Studio for the Arts has enlisted Durow to create a large public sculpture for the complex, which is under construction on Fitzwater Street.

Durow salvaged a pair of 14-foot-long steel I-beams from the rubble of the partially built condominium building that was torn down to make way for Rivers Edge. A mock-up in his office shows one beam placed on top of the other, shaped not unlike the number “7.”

If Durow stays true to the model, the beams will be painted orange, and square pieces of colored glass will be laid along the spine of the upper arm. He’s trying to finish it by the end of the year.

He won’t take any money above what it costs him to construct the still-unnamed piece. He figures he’ll let interested art students back at the university help put it together.

The campus studio has the look of a back room in a mechanic’s shop. The floors are cold, unfinished concrete, the walls are bare brick and the roof consists of sheets of corrugated metal. In one corner stands an emergency shower and eye wash, underscoring the laboratory-like atmosphere.

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