Orb by Easthampton Artist Reflects Theme of Universality

"Part of the purpose of the piece is to provide a way in which anyone who looks at it can have an experience that is personal to them."

There is an ancient Kabbalistic myth that imagines at the time of creation a giant earthen vessel containing the light of goodness. The vessel slips from God's hands and tumbles toward the Earth, where it breaks into innumerable pieces. Those that have come to inhabit the Earth are charged with piecing the metaphorical vessel back together, one good deed at a time. In Hebrew, the phrase used is Tikkun Olam, which often translates "to repair the world," usually through acts of charity.

For Henry Richardson, an area glass artist with a studio at One Cottage Street, this story and the beauty of the word Tikkun captures the spirit of his newest project, the largest of his career. Since late summer, he has been literally piecing together a six-foot-tall orb out of cut and chipped blue-tinted plate glass. Even though the sculpture is hollow, he estimates it will weigh nearly 5,000 pounds when completed, involving 142 layers of epoxied half-inch glass.

"I was trying to find a simple term, a way to describe the positive universality of humanity," said Richardson, who got the idea for the name from a friend in New York. Not only did Tikkun capture the scope Richardson wanted his piece to address, but the many meanings of the word allowed the work to remain open to communication. Tikkun can also mean to heal and to help. "Part of the purpose of the piece is to provide a way in which anyone who looks at it can have an experience that is personal to them," he said.

Next week, Richardson will get a chance to find out what the rest of the sculpture world thinks about his piece, as he travels to Chicago in a rented truck with his partner, Lynda Hagaerstrom, and the fragile payload. Richardson has been granted a much-coveted place in the central hall of the Sculpture Objects Functional Arts Exposition later this week. The event is an annual showcase for the premier three-dimensional art galleries in the world, said Richardson. "It's a huge honor. This is very prestigious," he said. The placement is so prestigious, in fact, that several wealthy collectors and corporations expressed interest in purchasing the $100,000 piece before it was even completed. That selling price, if realized, will make the piece both a financial and artistic accomplishment, well worth the long nights, the nerve-wracking drive and even the removal of a door frame from One Cottage Street to get the globe out.

Richardson, a Northampton resident, has also been invited to speak to a Chicago Art Institute class about the technical difficulties of designing and executing such a large piece. Richardson used a computer model to figure the dimensions of the hundreds of individual glass arcs."You never know what will happen. If your math was bad, you'll come up with a banana," he said. At some point, he said he hopes that Tikkun finds a home in a public place, where people can interact with it on a daily basis, consider its size and symmetry and their own roles in the world.

By Michael Scherer for the Daily Hampshire Gazette.