MacArthur Fellows Program

Josiah McElheny

Sculptor | Class of 2006

Drawing from the decorative and functional traditions of glass to craft a new, multifaceted form of contemporary art.

New York, New York
39 at time of award
Area of Focus
3-D Visual Art
Published September 1, 2006

About Josiah's Work

Josiah McElheny is a sculptor who draws from the decorative and functional traditions of glass to craft a new, multifaceted form of contemporary art. Often using narratives inspired by the histories of art, design, and glass as points of departure, McElheny creates objects of exceptional formal sophistication, exquisite craftsmanship, and conceptual rigor. While the beauty of his blown glass objects invite viewers into his installations, the narratives behind each piece encourage thoughtful reflection upon the objects’ significance. One of McElheny’s most ambitious projects, An End to Modernity (2005), consists of a twelve-foot-wide by ten-foot-high chandelier modeled on the 1960s Lobmeyr design for the chandeliers found in Lincoln Center. Through his massive sculpture of shining chrome and transparent glass, McElheny explores the convergence of modernist design and the Big Bang theory, both of which were invented in the early twentieth-century, only to reach their widespread acceptance in the 1960s. Earlier projects have focused on subjects ranging from Roman Imperial glass to twentieth-century fashion, from sixteenth-century Italian painting to the designs of Adolf Loos. To each of these topics McElheny brings the same boundless curiosity and ability to make connections across classes of objects, historical moments, and fields of inquiry. This artist’s technical virtuosity and deep knowledge of his medium’s history have produced a captivating series of sculptures and promise more stimulating, shimmering works to come.


Josiah McElheny received a B.F.A. (1989) from the Rhode Island School of Design and was an apprentice to master glassblowers Jan-Erik Ritzman (1989-1991), Sven-Ake Carlsson (1989-1991), and Lino Tagliapietra (1992-1997). He was an artist-in-residence at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum (1998) and the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (2000) and was a visiting critic at the Yale University School of Art (2001-2003). His works have appeared in numerous solo and group exibitions in the U.S. and abroad, including the Whitney Museum of American Art and the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Wexner Center for the Arts, Columbus, and the Centro Galego de Arte Contemporánea, Santiago de Compostela, Spain.

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