Mitchell Gaudet’s Cast Glass Sculptures
Mitchell Gaudet’s glass creations have been well respected and admired for decades by tourists and locals alike. His work is alive with color and—dare I say it—funk! Gaudet casts glass into the shapes of found objects that often times reflect iconic imagery of the city. His water meter symbols, fleur de lis and voodoo dolls are popular sculptures for Gaudet’s business, Studio Inferno; though he finds inspiration in current events and has a passion for unique projects as well.
“I don’t react politically about these things, but it’s an important component of my work as an artist or interpreter to be able to translate my thoughts through my art,” Gaudet said. “For instance, I’m trying to build a samurai suit out of uranium glass, and that’s based off of the Fukushima nuclear disaster. I feel like the armor is something that protects you, but is also killing you.”
Gaudet designs his shows around a specific theme or idea, and many of his shows use found objects as the motivator or the impetus of the pieces. Like many artists, color is one of the elements that Gaudet finds most seductive in his work. But, perhaps his infatuation with colors in glass has something to do with the sheer purity and vibrancy that each color evokes, and the beautiful imperfections that his sculptures can sometimes impart.
“I find importance in the material of glass because of its transparency, the subtle power of certain colors, its seductiveness and its ability to pick up textures. I embrace the imperfections of the material; it’s so weird to see something that we perceive as fragile, cool and slick to be moved and molded as a liquid. Everything about glass is sort of foreign to most people.”
Gaudet’s method of glass work is called glass casting, which uses hot glass—glass heated in a furnace— to sculpt or pour into a cast or mold. Though the art of glass sculpting is unique, there seem to be an infinite number of ways in which to manipulate the product: techniques such as glass blowing, which involves the use of a blow pipe, kiln cast work, lamp work, cold work and many others.
“These techniques used to be much divided among academia, but now many schools with these programs are teaching all of these techniques and then letting their ideas drive which area they want to work in.”
Gaudet discovered his own love for glass sculpting through an elective course in stained glass during his undergraduate years at LSU, where he was pursuing a degree in psychology. Sitting in his office now, it’s evident that Gaudet followed the right calling.
“My professor in that course saw stained glass as painting with light. When I took that elective, I never even thought of art as a career. There was just a good mix of people in this class and I found the art form very liberating, exciting and what I wanted to do. It was also a program where working with clay, working with metal and print making were all accepted, which, I think, was a pretty healthy approach to art.”
Gaudet grew up in the Ninth Ward in a blue collar background where working with your hands and physical labor were necessary, but were also just what you did in day-to-day life. Now, years later, Gaudet hasn’t strayed far from his roots, but his labor has become a labor of love.
“My dad was a carpenter, a great mechanic and a fixer of stuff. I think there’s a basic human need to make things, so growing up in a household where we were always building something and then to shift into this idea-based creativity is very intoxicating for me.”
Gaudet’s work can be found at Studio Inferno at 3000 Royal Street in the depths of the Bywater. His cast sculptures of colorful glass are solid and familiar, much like Gaudet, the Bywater and New Orleans itself.
“I find it very interesting when I have a problem or a challenge with art. To be able to solve it in a creative way is exciting for me.”