The Evocative Sculptures of Kristi Cavataro Can’t Be Pinned Down
Kristi Cavataro’s modular stained-glass sculptures can evoke art deco skyscrapers, flowering cacti, or overgrown pieces of circuitry. But look long enough and her strikingly unconventional forms defy comparison. “I’m not trying to make a thing that is easily nameable,” says the artist from her South Bronx studio, where she has lived and worked since 2015. “They’re not illustrations of a thing. They are the thing.”
The 28-year-old Connecticut native is preparing for the April opening of her first solo gallery show at Ramiken in Brooklyn. With the goal of “using stained glass in a volumetric way,” she has employed Louis Comfort Tiffany’s famous method of wrapping each piece of glass in copper foil before soldering them together over a wooden model, in effect creating “drawings in space.” The pieces, which she refers to as “theorems of imagination,” are magnetic, cerebral, and strangely animate. Ranged around her workspace in various stages of completion, they recall an orchestra or an alphabet, components of a system that hovers on the cusp of legibility.
Though they appear effortless, the sculptures are painstakingly handmade. Each one takes about a month to complete; an 80-pound, wall-mounted piece, her most ambitious to date, took two. Before she begins production, Cavataro spends hours trawling wholesalers’ websites for specific colors of sheet glass, although COVID has disrupted the already-complicated supply chain—due to mine closures, certain minerals used in colored glass are now scarce.
When Cavataro recently visited the Donald Judd survey at the Museum of Modern Art, she found herself studying his palette, which was bold without feeling whimsical. Judd often dispatched his blueprints to fabricators, but Cavataro oversees her own process from start to finish. She draws from her experience in a variety of mediums—including textiles and slab ceramics—as well as from her day job as a carpenter at the Cooper Hewitt, where she builds platforms, pedestals, and other display elements. “I’m always trying to be inventive with materials,” Cavataro says. Which is precisely why she’s already plotting her next creative move: glassblowing.
Artwork courtesy Kristi Cavataro and Ramiken New York.