Wednesday, January 16, 2019
A visit to CAVAglass on 7th Street
Photos and interview by Stacie Joy
I recently got a chance to meet with artist Joseph Cavalieri of CAVAglass at his workspace on Seventh Street near Avenue C to learn more about working with glass and see some of his current pieces as well as a work in progress.
How did CAVAglass come to be?
I chose CAVAglass as the name of my business basically because no one can spell my last name correctly! Seriously, I wanted a short and memorable business name that relates to my glass work and Italian roots.
CAVAglass is a stained-glass studio in my home in the East Village where I create hand-painted works, mainly for commissions and for upcoming exhibitions. I get to travel to teach weeklong painting on glass workshops around the country, and sometimes in Europe if I get lucky. I have had work spaces outside of my home in the past, but I feel terribly spoiled to be able to work, live, and teach in the same space. No dealing with the subway, and I can work any hours I like.
For most of my professional career before working with glass, I worked as an art director for magazines here in New York City. I spent about six years each at GQ, People and Good Housekeeping. It was a fun career, with great and creative people as well as lots of challenges and rewards. Around 2000 I studied at UrbanGlass in Brooklyn, and in 2010 left my full-time publishing job to open CAVAglass.
What made you chose the East Village to live and work in? How does the neighborhood affect your work?
My family goes way back in this neighborhood. In the 1920s, my grandfather lived on 11th Street, the same block as Veniero's. He met and married my grandmother, who lived on Spring Street and Lafayette, in Little Italy, and moved to the Bronx and then up to Westchester to raise a family with 13 kids.
My moving here in 1997 from Elizabeth Street in Nolita felt very natural, I think that familiarity with the neighborhood is in my DNA. It is comforting to know my last apartment was four blocks from where my grandmother lived in Little Italy, and my current home/studio is about six blocks from where my grandfather lived.
I am stimulated every time I walk out my door, finding inspirations in the mix and clash of visuals. These are a mix of personalities of my local neighbors, trashy bridge-and-tunnel girls barfing on the street (I definitely want to do a stained-glass window about them), patterns and colors, fashion and lack of fashion on the street, stickers and graffiti, architecture, and the nature in Tompkins Square Park. I also have a little roof garden so I get to see some nature one flight up, when I need a break from my work.
What are some of the challenges you face in working with glass as a medium?
The biggest and most important challenge with each work is to have the finished work tell the story I have inside my head when I first design it, but isn't that true with every artist? The difference with my art is I paint on the glass with enamels that are kiln-fired onto the surface of the glass permanently. There is no going back and erasing the image.
Another challenge is to take my time when making work. The process is varied and demanding, from the hand-cutting sheets of glass, to sitting and concentrating on very detailed painting for hours, to the soldering and framing of the work. There is no instant gratification here, and I love the challenge of focusing on my vision.
The work you’ve shown me seems to have intertwined themes of consumerism, sin, and fables, and feature recognizable icons from "The Simpsons," R. Crumb’s work, the TV show "Bewitched," and "Alice in Wonderland." How have these cultural touchstones inspired you and what drew you to them?
I like surprising myself with nontraditional, sometimes humorous images in stained glass: it totally keeps me sane. "The Simpsons," "Alice in Wonderland" and Endora are put on a higher level when made of glass and lighted from behind. This effect once was only seen in stained glass windows in churches. My work is wall-hung with LED lighting, so you can experience this radiant effect privately and personally outside of the church.
Cavalieri is currently showing art at Dixon Place on the Lower East Side. His work will be featured in an exhibition on consumerism at the Pittsburgh Glass Center that opens March 1. Details on upcoming shows and some of his permanent art, including an MTA Arts for Transit project, can be found here.
Previously on EV Grieve:
A visit to the Tompkins Square Library branch on 10th Street
A visit to Bali Kitchen on 4th Street
A visit to Eat’s Khao Man Gai on 6th Street
A visit to Yoli Restaurant on 3rd Street
Preparing for Saturday's dinner at Il Posto Accanto on 2nd Street
A visit to the Streecha Ukrainian Kitchen on 7th Street
A trip to the recently expanded Lancelotti Housewares on Avenue A
A visit to C&B Cafe on 7th Street
A visit to Rossy's Bakery & Café on 3rd Street