The son of a Navy man, Richard Remsen lived lots of places as a boy, but the years he spent enjoying Maine’s coast in Camden, from age 10 to 15, were perhaps the most formative for a man who would become an artistic master of metal and blown glass.
For more than three decades, he has produced ornamental objects in metal, glass, and in combinations of the two materials. His work includes large mobilelike installations designed to enhance high-end architecture, museum pieces, large lobster claws created in glass and his latest series of oversized fishing lures made of glass and steel and cast bronze. The latter may be among the most remarkable of the works he has on display in his studio.
“If there’s any single influence that led to my work now, it’s that I could swim a lot, during those Camden years,” Remsen said recently. Pointing to the metal and flowing glasswork he designs, forges and creates, Remsen added, “That sense of the water flowing over you — the intrinsic feeling of how things move, of the motion of things — is all a part of my work as an artist.”
Remsen went on to attend private high school at St. Alban’s School in Washington, D.C., and then the Rhode Island School of Design, where he studied glass blowing and steel and metal fabrication. Upon his return to Maine some 30 years ago, he bought an abandoned blueberry processing plant in West Rockport. Its concrete floors are ideal for an artist who planned to set up a foundry to work with superheated metals and molten glass.
In Remsen’s work, technical expertise is married to free-spirited imagination. This is particularly true in the fishing lures, which could not be made without all kinds of knowledge about the chemicals that produce vibrant colors in the glass, about how to form the stiff stuff of stainless steel so that it not only will fit but also will embrace the free-flowing forms of molten glass, and experience with epoxies and other materials that may be used to secure steel to glass.
Remsen gained some inspiration from vintage lures. “Lures were historically a mix of metal and wood or metal and glass,” Remsen said, “and this is very appealing to me. In older lures, glass was sometimes used in the eyes,” he said.
But he was interested not just in the practical facts of lures. He found himself thinking about them metaphorically. “Everything in our society tries to lure you in some way,” Remsen mused. “For a new refrigerator, the lure may be zero percent financing. Fast cars, new boats, beautiful women. All of these things can become terrifically alluring.”
One of Remsen’s early pieces in his fishing lure series is a blown-glass lure filled with paper money and armed with a fierce treble hook. He calls this piece, “The Lure of Money.”
More recently, Remsen’s lures have been becoming “more fanciful,” he said. Many have very flowing forms while others have closed, almost bulleted shapes. All of them have eye-catching eyes.
“Think about women and cosmetics, which are always used to enhance the eyes. Eyes are the mirror of the soul. It is impossible to resist their power and energy. It’s the exact same thing with fishing lures. Lures really don’t have the same feeling if there isn’t an eye associated with it. The eye really gives it its soul.”