Originally recorded on 6 memory cards. Duration is 4 hr., 47 min.
An interview of Tom Patti conducted 2010 January 18 and 19, by William Warmus, for the Archives of American Art's Nanette L. Laitman Documentation Project for Craft and Decorative Arts in America, at Patti's residence, in Miami Beach, Florida.
Patti talks about growing up in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, in a working-class neighborhood, and playing in and around the General Electric Corp. landfill, the major employer in the area; losing vision in one eye after a childhood accident; he recalls running with a tough crowd during high school and making homemade tattoos for his friends; his probation officer during high school, who encouraged his interest in art; meeting Norman Rockwell, who encouraged him to attend Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York; majoring in industrial design at Pratt, where he worked with Rowena Reed Kostellow; the idealism and social consciousness of the 1960s; exposure to the ideas of visionary architects such as Moshe Safdie and Buckminster Fuller; the New York art/social scene in the 1960s, including Max's Kansas City; meeting Marilyn Holtz, whom he later married; a trip to Colombia to discuss shelter development, and exposure to severe poverty; a resulting focus on people-centered shelter ideas; graduate work at Pratt, and the value of his studies in an academic environment; working with inflatable shelters, experimenting with different materials, including using glass; returning to the Berkshires in Massachusetts, working odd jobs, running a small glass school for children; becoming aware of the studio glass movement and attending a glassblowing workshop at Penland School of Crafts in Penland, North Carolina, in 1971; continued work with glass, including Vitrolite and other scavenged materials; growing public recognition in the 1970s; an internship at Haystack Mountain School of Crafts, Deer Isle, Manie, where he met Steve Feren, with whom he worked for several years; acquisition of work by the Corning Museum of Glass, Corning, New York, in 1976; first one-man gallery show in 1977; purchase of work by the Museum of Modern Art, New York, New York; series Solar Riser and the importance of a meditative/spiritual component of his work; setting up a studio in Plainfield, Massachusetts; first museum exhibition at the George Walter Vincent Smith Art Museum in Springfield, Massachusetts; speaking at the World Crafts Council conference in Vienna in the late 1970s; continued travel and recognition in Europe in the 1980s; "Genic Doran Divider-Sentinel," (1982-84), commissioned sculpture for General Electric in Pittsfield, which led to his focus on laminated materials; early 1990s studio expansion to work on a larger scale; commission work with Cesar Pelli for Owens Corning Fiberglas in 1993; one-person show at Serge Lechazynski's gallery in Biot, France; travels in Europe and Israel; serving on the board of the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Massachusetts; consulting work with the glass and materials industry; "Spectral-Luma Ellipse" (2000); "Spatial Boundary" (2001), commissioned by Ann and Graham Gund; continued smaller-scale work; designing the window for Sienna Gallery in Lenox, Massachusetts, owned by his daughter; recent commissions including "Morton Square" in 2004, the Roosevelt Avenue Intermodal Station (2004), both in New York City, and "Miami Rain" (2009), Miami, Florida; and the importance of transparency, opacity, and translucency in his work. He also recalls Joseph Parriott, Sybil Moholy-Nagy, Rudolf Arnheim, Art Wood, Thomas Buechner, Doug Heller, Penelope Hunter-Stiebel, Laurie Wagman and Irvin Borowsky, and Malcolm Rogers.
Quotes and excerpts must be cited as follows: Oral history interview with Tom Patti, 2010 January 18-19. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
Funding for this interview was provided by the Nanette L. Laitman Documentation Project for Craft and Decorative Arts in America.
Tom Patti (1943- ) is a glass artist, sculptor and designer in Pittsfield, Massachusetts and Miami Beach, Florida.
This interview is part of the Archives of American Art Oral History Program, started in 1958 to document the history of the visual arts in the United States, primarily through interviews with artists, historians, dealers, critics and administrators.
Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, 750 9th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20001