Glorious Glass in the Garden
Take a Peek at What You'll See
1. Robins Visitors Center; Garden Shop/Café Corridor
Hans Godo Fräbel has always been mesmerized with the theatre and he created this series of masks as a tribute to the performing arts. In his home, he has a large collection of masks from all over the world. The 22 masks in this corridor display are richly varied in their designs and coloration. The range of colors depends on the presence of metal oxides—cobalt oxide yields blue and iron oxide yields yellow, for instance—as well as the intensity of the torch flame.
2. Four Seasons Garden; Frog Fountain
This sculpture is a large version of Fräbel’s 1979 “Tower of Babel." Like all of Fräbel’s art, this piece is made of borosilicate glass, commonly known as Pyrex. Glass is comprised of three basic elements—silica or quartz sand, sodium, and calcium carbonate. By adding the element boron, the resulting borosilicate has the stronger mechanical and physical properties we associate with Pyrex.
3. Sunken Garden
Large Cube with Imploded Glass Spheres
In the late 1970's, Hans Godo Fräbel created a small series of cube-shaped abstract sculptures, all between 15 inches and 30 inches in size. Using these small sculptures as models, Fräbel decided to try to create a cube as large as physically possible. The resulting sculpture measures 12’ wide by 12’ tall by 14’ deep, weighs around 900 pounds, and is made of acrylic rods with metal fittings. Approximately 60 blown glass spheres in the center of the cube generate the sculpture’s magnificent play with sunlight.
4. Lora M. Robins Library; Education and Library Complex
Sprites and Vineys
Fräbel’s “Viney” sculptures blend the human form with plant life and represent the close-knit connection between humans and nature. Fräbel first started creating these unique figures in 1997. Sprites are sculptures that mix nature and fantasy by depicting sprites (the male version of fairies) dancing on branches and flowers.
These recently-completed floral designs are all fantasies spun out of Hans Godo Fräbel’s imagination. In contrast to the very realistic and botanically accurate specimens displayed nearby, these flowers may bear some resemblance to common varieties, but the colors—and sometimes the absence of color—clearly show that Fräbel wasn’t constrained by the need for precise representation. Instead, he simply enjoyed manipulating materials and methods of shaping the glass to see what would evolve.
5. Conservatory; Dome House
Cavorting Clowns Fountain
Hans Godo Fräbel, renowned for his playful figures in glass,created this large fountain in 2006. Based on his illustrious Cavorting Clown theme, the fountain stands over 10’ tall and 7’ in diameter. The Cavorting Clown series brought international recognition to Fräbel when he was chosen as an Absolut Vodka Artist in 1987, the very first glass artist to be honored with this title. Other artists with this distinction are the late Andy Warhol and Keith Haring. Each one of the clowns is made of blown glass, and they likely were created in pieces—arms, legs, head, torso—and joined together at the torch. After time in the annealing kiln, where the object slowly cools down, the clowns are sandblasted. Fräbel’s virtuoso artistry is apparent in the balanced physical proportions of each figure, and the way each clown comes alive with distinctive gestures and movements.
These unique and expressive masks, all hand-created by Hans Godo Fräbel, begin as clear glass hollow tubes. The tubes are heated at the torch and blown to create a volume. The volume then is cut at its long edge and folded back to form a slightly convex, flatter plane that forms the basic shape for the mask. To some masks, Fräbel has added colored glass surface highlights; to others he has applied actual gold and silver leaf, using a precious-metal bonding agent that adheres to glass.
6. Conservatory; Orchid Wing
Endangered Frogs and Lizards
The 26 frogs scattered among the orchids are all patterned after endangered or extinct tropical frogs, most of them from South or Central America. The frog series was developed originally for an exhibition of Fräbel’s art at the Atlanta Botancial Garden, where there is a dedicated conservation program to research and protect tropical frogs that are at risk of extinction. Meanwhile, lizards like the 20 on view here will never be found in real life. Each one is unique and completely created out of Fräbel’s imagination, with fantastic color schemes that are the magical result of torch-worked glass.
Aces and Deuces, Jokers Wild
This good-natured series of sculptures is a metaphor for life: there are always ups and downs and highs and lows. In creating Aces and Deuces, Jokers Wild, Hans Godo Fräbel was inspired by the risks and challenges that everyone faces and the gambles we all have to make in our lives.
7. Conservatory; North Wing
These botanically-correct flowers epitomize Hans Godo Fräbel’s technical mastery of the flame-worked glass process. The group includes rare or extinct orchids, waterlilies and lotuses, some of which are similar to those in the Garden’s collection along the edge of Sydnor Lake.
Fräbel created three objects just for Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden. The Magnolia virginiana captures the fragrant, creamy white flower so common throughout the Southeast, while the Sarracenias could have been modeled directly after the bug-eating pitcher plants residing in our boggy West Island Garden.
Finally, the mysterious and endangered Ghost Orchid, Dendrophylax lindenii, is Fräbel’s precise rendition of the native orchid that only grows in a very limited range of wild and desolate swamps in southwest Florida. Given that the ghost orchid is protected by state and federal laws and cannot be removed or relocated from its habitat, Fräbel worked from preparatory studies and photographs.
Fräbel’s wavy bowls are made from canes of borosilicate glass that all are connected free-hand at the torch, creating lacy, bowl-like structures. The technique requires making a series of small, precise looped connections by heating and fusing together thread-like strands of glass, one joint at a time.
8. Conservatory; Cottage Wing
Fantasy Flower Goblets
There are 25 Fantasy Flower Goblets adorning the Cottage Garden. These bright, colorful goblet-shaped flowers were inspired by actual garden specimens. To achieve such wide varieties of colors and patterns, the Fräbel studio artists experiment with combinations of colored borosilicate rods and learn over years of practice how the colors oxidize and change during the annealing process.
In 2002, Fräbel created a series of small and large “Longfellows,” elongated figures with exaggerated extremities and stretched torsos; these playful studies of proportion in the human form result in an almost alien look. The very first Longfellow was about 12 inches tall and “emerged” from the torch’s flame—no preliminary sketches were made.
9. Main Garden Path
These "Longfellows" with the high-wheel
bicycle is Hans Godo Frabel's homage to the Garden's origins as the Lakeside Wheel Club, ca. 1890.
10. Lower Asian Valley Pond
In 2002, Fräbel created a series of small and large “Longfellows,” elongated figures with exaggerated extremities and stretched torsos; these playful studies of proportion in the human form result in an almost alien look. The Longfellows in this fountain are the largest Fräbel has ever created, up to 44” tall. Notice how each one is striking a different pose—the glass has been stretched into various movements that make each figure seem to come alive. The surfaces have been sandblasted, giving them a frosted appearance.
11. West Island Garden
This large installation is one of Hans Godo Fräbel’s most recent creations (2009). In 2002, Fräbel created a series of small and large “Longfellows,” elongated figures with exaggerated extremities and stretched torsos; these playful studies of proportion in the human form result in an almost alien look. Some of these Longfellows are as tall as 4 feet. When sunlight hits these sculptures, they light up at the ends and in the thinner parts of the sculpture, creating a visual magic.
12. Lotus Bridge; Sydnor Lake
Balancing Clowns on Spheres
This lighthearted and playful portrayal of Hans Godo Fräbel’s famous clowns conveys a simple message: enjoy life as if it is one big carnival. The twelve clowns in this installation are balancing on large, brightly colored blown spheres of glass that are anchored in the water. The clowns and spheres reflect delightfully in the water as the water gently moves them.
Photos: Don Williamson and Brad Alston