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Ahead of the storm, Gutlove, family and friends begin installation of 'Verve'

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If glass sculptor Michele Gutlove has her way, a new public artwork will greet students returning for classes at Florida Gulf Coast University on Monday. And she's not about to let a little thing like Winter Storm Hercules to get in her way.

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"I like snow," Gutlove confessed during a break on Day 1 of work on Verve, a hanging fused glass sculpture that will grace the lobby atrium of Marieb Hall, the Health Sciences building that was completed last year. Which is fortunate, because once she finishes work here, the Natick, Massachusetts artist is off to Finland to make a presentation for yet another commission there. The sculptor is in high demand, with projects also planned in Palo Alto, California and New Orleans, Louisiana.

Gutlove already has public art installations in:

  • Gainesville, FL – Elemental Energy (a suspended glass sculpture depicting flames, sparks and water commissioned by the Gainesville Regional Utilities for the lobby of their new firefighters’ training center).
  • Lauderhill, FL – Bromeliad Sunshower (a suspended glass sculpture depicting a tropical sun shower with bromeliad lilies, palm fronds, monstera deliciosa and dichroic sun and rain commissioned by the City of Lauderhill for the lobby of their new city hall).
  • Cedar Rapids, IA – Emergence (a tribute in glass to transformation, installed in the new Juvenile Justice Center, in which hundreds of caterpillars emerge as dichroic glass butterflies in a forest of native wildflowers, ferns, deciduous leaves, and evergreen needles).
  • Corvallis, OR – Suislaw Sunshower (impression of the Siuslaw National Forest in the atrium of the Corvallis-Benton County Public Library containing 1280 pieces of glass that represent native wildflowers, deciduous leaves and evergreen needles, pierced by the sun).
  • Monmouth, OR – Bright Day (dynamic reflections, refractions and shadows from 20 pieces of hand-made glass create the illusion of a bright sunny day in Western Oregon University’s Werner Center).
  • Natick, MA – Western Well – Wall of Reflection (wall of fused glass mounted on mirrors in a mikvah lobby, with deep green colors below the sea fading to blues for the Earth and sky to purples for the universe beyond).
  • New Orleans, FL – Random Thoughts (an impressionistic tribute in glass to a healthy mind, made of hundreds of pieces of hand-made glass suggesting a neuron’s nucleus, axons, and dendrites).
  • Salt Lake City, UT – Inklings, Musings and Notions (three triptychs depicting impressionistic neurons and dendrites, installed at the University of Utah’s new James L. Sorenson Molecular Biotechnology Building).
  • Springfield, MA – Aqua Luminance (a hand-formed hanging glass sculpture representing aquatic plant life growing in water towards the day-light, installed in the Daly Lobby of the Baystate Medical Center).

Although educated and trained as an architect, she has been working in glass sculpture for the past 16 years. But her architectural background gives her a strong foundation in structural engineering, solar energy and day lighting, as well as an intimate understanding of the creation of large-scaled spaces, the value of attention to detail and, of course, building codes.

When completed, Verve will sport handmade sculptural glass suspended by stainless steel cables from a custom-crafted aluminum truss. The effect will replicate neurons and dendrites and relate to the celebration of human communication.

“The artwork will illuminate the university’s mission by celebrating and inspiring connections students are making with each other and with their own potential,” Gutlove notes. “Although human brain cells are the seeds of my inspiration for this piece, viewers will discover other imagery as they view the sculpture over time. My concept is that students will make their own connections, and the art will inspire curiosity, exploration and education.”

Gutlove has yet to uncrate the boxes of glass stacked neatly in the southwest corner of the Marieb Hall lobby. She and her team spent the day assembling the truss so that it can be hoisted into place with the green scissor lift that was delivered to the building this morning for that very purpose. It's a process that requires a team of trusted installers, which in Gutlove's case consists of her husband, Jeff, children Zev and Aliza, and family friends Caitlyn Thompson and Malcolm Littlefield.

Littlefield almost didn't make it to Florida though.

"He was still in Massachusetts this morning, clearing away snow," Gutlove chuckled. "His was one of the last flights out before they closed Logan International."

But then again, Winter Storm Hercules wouldn't dare get in this artist's way.

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