Steve Wake

Despite the fact that the University of Nebraska-Lincoln doesn’t have a glass work program, the Eisentrager-Howard Gallery now has the rare opportunity of exhibiting a collection of glass work by artists from all around the world.

The School of Art, Art History and Design at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln debuts their new series Lincoln Collects on Oct. 4, in the Eisentrager-Howard Gallery in Richards Hall. The first installment of the series will feature the collection of Steve Wake, a local and notable collector in the art world. 

Lincoln Collects will be an ongoing series dedicated to displaying the collections of prominent collectors in the art community.

 “Lincoln Collects: The Steve Wake Collection” will have its opening reception on Oct. 4, at 5 p.m. and will be open and free to the public from 12:30 to 4:30 p.m. until Nov. 1.

According to Patricia Davis, the gallery director for the School of Art, Art History and Design, some collectors keep their artwork in an offsite location, but others will have their collection on display throughout their own homes. Steve Wake is a collector who likes to live with his art and despite his collection being quite large, Davis said his home is still quite spacious and is a fascinating experience. 

“It's really interesting to see the relationship of collector to collection when it's just his everyday life,” Davis said. “Then when we look at works in a gallery environment or a museum, that connection between owner and item is not the same.”

In an attempt to bring a little bit of that intimate relationship between collector and collection into the exhibition, Davis acquired some art books from Wake’s home, something she said Wake also seemed to have an extensive collection of. Davis also worked with Love Library at UNL to bring in more books for the gallery and create a small reading space that could be a part of the exhibition. 

A majority of the art pieces owned by Wake are made of studio glass. According to Davis, these pieces are part of a studio glass movement in the art community that involves transforming glass from a purely functional material, like a bowl or vase, into an art material that focuses more on the aesthetics of the material rather than the functionality. 

“The glass pieces have a lot of mystery to them. As artists, there's this sense of mystique and wonder as to how it all actually works,” Davis said. “It can have the capacity to be very profound and make you stop and look at something, and it sort of just grabs you and pulls you in as a material.“

Davis explained this idea by using one of the pieces that will be on display in the gallery as an example. Davis described the glass object as looking like a piece of watermelon in shape, except it isn’t red and has a blue rind. Inside the glass are air bubbles that have been trapped inside as they tried to rise to the top. 

“It's almost like a moment that was captured in space and time and it lives immortalized inside this hunk of glass,” she said. 

Fransisco Souto, the director of the School of Art, Art History and Design and glass artist, has known Wake for over a decade through their relationship as artist and collector —  he even has a few of his own pieces featured in Wake’s collection. 

“He is a very generous supporter of the arts and the community. He has an amazing art collection with a focus on contemporary glass,” Souto said. “I am honored to have a few of my pieces represented in his amazing collection.”

Souto said he is particularly excited to be able to provide such an incredible opportunity for the students to see the perspective of an art collector. Not many people have the chance to see the work of a single collector. Museums and galleries often have donated pieces from a few different collectors, but this exhibition will have every piece from Wake’s collection alone. 

“I think this exhibition will have a lasting impact on our students and will introduce the community to the great vision of Steve as a collector,” Souto said.  

The Eisentrager-Howard Gallery rarely gets the opportunity to display glasswork, according to Davis. UNL doesn’t have a glass work program, so the students don’t have many opportunities to experience this art style. 

“It's something new, exciting and different,” Davis said. “It's an opportunity for exposure to work they maybe wouldn’t be able to see, or maybe it’s works they've seen in books or online, and now they have the opportunity to come in and look at it and ask questions.”