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Seeking Wonder fused glass exhibit May 1–31 at Spartanburg artists co-op

Two members of West Main Artists Co-op will join forces in May to present a fused-glass exhibit that seeks to inspire patrons to wonder about the interplay of color, transparency, light and creativity.

The exhibit, Seeking Wonder, will be a diverse collection of fused glass works of art by Tryon, NC artist Shelley Sperka and Spartanburg, SC artist Richard G. Debus. It will showcase May 1-31, and the public can view it at no charge Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the West Main Artists Co-op in Spartanburg. A free public reception will be held on Thursday, May 16, from 5:00 p.m. until 9:00 p.m. during the city’s monthly ArtWalk.

About 30 pieces of glass works will be displayed, and all will be for sale. Sperka will present work that differs from her past creativity, which has been abstract and non-representational. In addition to her past style, she will she present lampshades, curved plates using woven glass, and landscapes that are a combination of abstract and representational. Debus’s work will be in line with his established style, which tends toward symmetrical patterns and landscapes in tabletop sculptures and functional dinnerware. Prices will range from $30 to $150.

Sperka discovered fused glass in the 1980s and immersed herself in the newfound medium. After taking a break from art to rear her children, she returned to it in the early 2000s.

“The most important attributes that glass has for me are its transparency and how it reacts with light,” said Sperka. “I create landscapes, jewelry, functional pieces, and whimsical pieces. My pieces are often not pretty. They have intentional cracks and flaws. They sometimes have little pockets under layers of glass. They are organic and one-of-a-kind. I have tried to express my despair about the state of our planet. I celebrate the planet in others. Communication is among the most important things we do as human beings. Artistic expression is a sacred form of communication.”

Debus found his passion for glass when he took a class on how to fuse glass after retiring in 2012. “Fusing glass allows me to use my creativity while letting the glass guide me,” Debus said. “Everything that I make is one of a kind. I love cutting and combining the colored glass and then letting the kiln melt all the pieces back into one creation.”

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A native of Charlotte, NC, Debus spent the vast majority of his life in Spartanburg. He worked for Southern Bell, Bellsouth and AT&T before retiring after 40 years of service. His love for the creative process began in childhood as he played in the woods and streams around Spartanburg. He has dabbled in many mediums but has found his passion in glass. He began with stained glass, but now does fused glass exclusively.

Debus joined the West Main Artists Co-op in 2018, and it is the first venue that he has exhibited in. Sperka has been a member of Co-op since 2015. She also has exhibited her work at the Tryon Arts and Craft School and Carri Bass Gallery in Tryon.

West Main Artists Co-op is one of Spartanburg’s leading nonprofit arts agencies. It is a membership-based venue with more than 50 members, 30 of whom have studios within the building that was once the West Main Baptist Church. The WMAC is the only studio art co-op in Spartanburg County and art is everywhere in the 20,000- square-foot building that houses three galleries, a printery, a ceramics studio and the largest collection of for-sale and locally-made in art in the county. For more information, visit westmainartists.org.

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