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Unbreakable heart: Tim Tate's glass art can even survive a new baseball stadium


Washington Blade - November 11, 2005

THE NEW D.C. baseball stadium has many Southeast business-owners in a tizzy, trying to find new locations for places that have existed for years. Along with several gay bars in the city's Navy Yard neighborhood, The Washington Glass School received its notice of imminent domain a couple of weeks ago.

For Tim Tate, gay co-director of the School, however, this move predicates bigger and better plans.

"We're already the largest warm glass school on the East Coast, and at the new space, we'll have twice the classroom size and three times the number of kilns," he says.

Tate says he isn't able to reveal the new location yet until all the details are worked out, but the school is packing up and moving to the larger locale in mid-December.

"Everyone is doing so much to bend over backwards for us... Washington Project for the Arts, the Arlington Arts Center, everyone," he says.

EVEN IN THE middle of looking for a new home for his school, Tate's personal artistic output hasn't lagged. His largest solo exhibition, "Caged by History," with more than 40 original pieces of glass art, opens on Friday, Nov. 11, at the Fraser Gallery in Bethesda, the show runs until Dec. 7.

The owner of the gallery, Catriona Fraser, is Tate's main representation in the D.C. area. She says her gallery is committed to showing art that is challenging to people and broadens their horizons.

"We're not a glass gallery," she says. "He is the only artist we have that works in glass. [His work] is narrative and allegorical. It's something meaningful and important." Tate, who has been working as a glass artist since the mid-'80s, says that the last few years have been particularly fruitful for him. He was awarded the D.C. Mayor's 2003 Art Award as an outstanding emerging artist, and he was named one of the Out Magazine's 100 People of the Year in 2004.

Many of the pieces in the current show can be seen as growing out of Tate's experience living with HIV. Tate was diagnosed as having the virus that causes AIDS in 1984, and many of his glass pieces are etched with or sculpted into a plus sign symbol, indicating an artistic icon of an HIV-positive status.

"I speak a lot about how my creation of art is healing to me and others around me," he says. "It doesn't have to be from HIV. I want it to be healing for anyone who knows what it means to have any difficult news and then reinvent yourself." Artist Tim Tate IN ONE OF the show's pieces, nine heart-shaped bottles rest in a grid pattern on a black background, and the bottle stoppers are crafted into tongues of flame. Etched on the hearts are a plus sign, the biohazard symbol, a poem by Rumi, and the chemical equations for all the meds Tate takes for HIV.

"I am hoping that nine people will attach to nine different [hearts] and find their own kind of healing," he says of the piece.

Although Tate grew up in an atheist household, much of his work takes on a Catholic feel. He has a series of reliquaries, which in Catholic tradition are containers that hold sacred relics of Christianity.

One of Tate's reliquaries is a bottle, stoppered with a red positive symbol, and inside it is a nest containing birds' eggs. According to the artist, this reliquary, as in the Catholic tradition, is a healing work.

"The nest and eggs are meant to be healing [symbols] - to be reborn through adversity," he says.

What an ideal symbol for Tate's work - both finding a new home for his studio and working within it.


Copyright © 2005 -The Washington Blade, Publisher. All rights reserved to Washington Blade. Reproduction of this article (other than one copy for personal reference) must be cleared through the Washington Blade.

Information in this article was accurate in November 11, 2005. The state of the art may have changed since the publication date. This material is designed to support, not replace, the relationship that exists between you and your doctor. Always discuss treatment options with a doctor who specializes in treating HIV.