Out of the Vault: Soundtracks with D.H. McNabb

Making art from glass is time-consuming. It is an undertaking that can unfold over hours, but more often takes place over days, weeks, or even months. A great music playlist can be essential to keeping focused and staying creative. These playlists were the starting point for our exhibition Out of the Vault: Soundtracks. MOG curator Katie Buckingham sat down with D.H. McNabb to learn more about his work in the exhibition and creative process.

KB: I’d love to hear more about Horizon Study Attempt #27. Is it inspired by a specific sunrise or sunset?

DHM: They’re general – the one in Out of the Vault was inspired by the trip to Tacoma for my residency in 2018. Imagine you’re driving West – that oblong shape of the bubble is the morning sunrise in your rearview mirror. Some of my earliest sunset memories are watching the sun over where I grew up in Tampa Bay.

KB: The paint on the wall is really eye-catching. What inspired that addition?

DHM: I’ve been to a number of collectors’ homes, and they can be so crowded. You’ve got a Lino [Tagliapietra], piled on top of a Nancy [Callan], piled on top of anything. For me, the paint defines the boundary of the space so you can’t creep close to it.

KB: Let’s talk about your playlist. What do you listen to while you work?

DHM: I generally don’t listen to playlists while I work, I listen to albums. The thing with playlists is that you have to sit there and construct them. In the Hot Shop, I don’t want to be distracted. I just need some tempo in the background. Usually, we start with something kind of old school, like Miles Davis. Then something more upbeat, like DJ Shadow, followed by a long concert, like Grateful Dead, Allman Brothers, or Led Zeppelin. Then we finish with something chill, like Bob Marley.

KB: Other than music, what is most essential to your creative process?

DHM: Having a great rapport with who you are working with. For years, I’ve worked with Janusz Poźniak and David Walters. They pretty much taught me how to blow glass, and then the next thing you know you’re assisting them, and then you turn around and they’re assisting you. It’s a great way to learn and to have aesthetic, have conversations with each other. Even though our works are different, you can see the visual ways we riff off each other.

KB: Where do you look for inspiration?

DHM: Well, I just look at a sunset [laughs]. But seriously, pretty much everything I liked when I was ten still holds true to me…nature, astronomy – everything from flora and fauna to the aurora borealis and stars. The only difference is that, through my undergraduate and graduate education, I can better articulate my ideas.

KB: How do you push through a creative block?

DHM: I have always fought against the worry that I won’t be able to come up with an idea. I came up with this term graduate school called “f*ckused” – where you’re so focused on something that you’re f*cked, you can’t get a new angle on it. So, I try not to get too f*ckused.

KB: So, what are you making now?

DHM: I’m continuing to think about sunrises and sunsets and have been imagining new shapes with faded colors. The latest iteration are these smart-aleck participation trophies. You know, like: “Thanks for participating sun!” Or “good job sun, that was a great sunset.” You know, “keep up the good f*cking work,” that sort of thing. I’ve been calling them Horizon Points or Sunset Trophies. Because the sun deserves an attaboy/attagirl too.

Check out D.H. McNabb’s playlist on Spotify, and visit us at Museum of Glass to see more of our collection featured in Out of the Vault: Soundtracks.

About The Artist:
D.H. McNabb’s work utilizes traditional Venetian glassblowing techniques to create mixed media pieces and installations that use glass in new and innovative ways. His artwork showcases a clever look at the world around us, inspired by everything from barware and cocktail glasses, to physical emails and potato chip bags.

McNabb’s work is featured in Out of the Vault: Soundtracks, currently on display at Museum of Glass and open through June 18, 2023.

Learn more and view McNabb’s work at: http://dhmcnabb.com/

Image credits:

  1. Photo by Tadzio © Fondation d’entreprise Hermès
  2. D.H. McNabb (American, born 1980). Horizon Study Attempt #27, Made at the Museum in 2018. Blown glass, paint and plywood; 28 × 36 × 9 in. (71.1 × 91.4 × 22.9 cm). Collection of Museum of Glass, Tacoma, Washington, gift of the artist. Photo courtesy of Museum of Glass.
  3. Sketches of early examples of Horizon Study. Courtesy of the artist.
  4. Viewing the sunrise through the lens of an airplane window, an early reference image for the Horizon Study series. Courtesy of the artist.