Through the Looking Glass

By Louise Irvine

In Through the Looking Glass, the absurdist masterpiece by Lewis Carroll, Alice enters a fantastical world where everything is a mirror image reflection of normality, logic is reversed and nonsense reigns. As we enter the International Year of Glass in today’s topsy turvy world, we are looking at glass through an alternative lens at WMODA. We have glass shoes to rival Cinderella’s slippers by Rob Stern, mirrored mannequins that serve as lights by Rey Lozano, and teeny-weeny wearable glass bikinis by Chelsea Rousso. Add Suzanne Barton’s series of Alice photographs taken underwater and WMODA has entered a strange parallel universe, just like Alice, for our new Through the Looking Glass season.

“If I had a world of my own, everything would be nonsense. Nothing would be what it is, because everything would be what it isn't. And contrary wise, what is, it wouldn't be. And what it wouldn't be, it would. You see?” The Mad Hatter, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There was published 150 years ago in December as a sequel to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland which first appeared in print in 1865. It is the most famous fantasy fiction in the world and is part of the global imagination having been translated into 175 languages, most recently into Klingon for Star Trek fans! The books were written by Lewis Carroll, the pen name of the Reverend Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, an Oxford mathematics professor. His sequel is almost a direct opposite of its predecessor in terms of imagery. Initially, Alice falls down the rabbit-hole in May sunshine to reach an underground Wonderland whereas she climbs through the looking glass above a fireplace on a snowy, wintry night to enter a second world of nonsense and confusion. The original imagery of playing cards is replaced with a chess game in the second book and size distortions are exchanged for opposites, mirror reflections, and time running backwards.

When Alice climbs through the mirror, she finds herself in a sunny garden where flowers speak to her. Chihuly’s giant Ikebana flowers and Persian rosettes can’t answer back but they do look otherworldly in his Macchia garden at WMODA. Chihuly collaborated with the Italian maestros Pino Signoretto and Lino Tagliapietra to blow, roll, and tweeze the molten glass into vivid Venetian forms which have been described as vases having an affair with a chandelier! Ribbons and feathers of glass entwine on the surface of his vessels while putti frolic in swirling tendrils in a myriad of colors. In the cylinder series, threads of glass created from canes are drawn in woven patterns onto the surface of the vessels.

In 1963, Chihuly’s first glass project was weaving melted shards into tapestries, an unlikely combination that stimulated his curiosity for the material. Now his glassblowing team in Seattle has collaborated with The Rug Company’s master weavers in Katmandhu, Nepal to turn Chihuly’s designs upside down. They have expanded our perceptions of glass by creating magic carpets hand-knotted in wool and silk to walk on.  The Rug Company’s photoshoot took place in the glasshouses at Kew Gardens in London, which hosted Chihuly’s Gardens of Glass installation in 2005 and Reflections on Nature in 2019.  See the Chihuly rugs soon at WMODA!

Miami glass artist, Rob Stern, trained with all the modern masters and has been exploring glass “beyond the bubble” at WMODA. His constellation of stars, leaves of glass, and monumental shells are on display in the Hot Glass gallery and his balloon glass Wiener dog is the new mascot of the museum. Now his wild imagination has taken a step further into our glass wonderland with Stern’s Stilettos, a collection of 50 glass shoes inspired by his wife’s obsession with designer footwear. The idea of glass slippers is not new as Cinderella fans will testify but Rob’s range of individual designs in diverse glassmaking techniques is awesome. Each stiletto has a unique identity and name, one more fantastic than the next. Like Lewis Carroll, Rob likes to juxtapose inanimate objects with natural forms and play on words as can be seen in all the punning titles for his shoes. Check out Wined Down which could also be labeled “Drink Me!”

Sadly, not even Cinderella could squeeze her foot into Rob’s glass shoes and dance the night away! Fortunately, chic revelers can wear Chelsea Rousso’s glass corsets and bikini tops for their next ball. Chelsea was a successful New York fashion designer before discovering the potential of glass as a wearable material. When she lived on the Upper East Side, she used to bike to the garment district through Central Park and would often stop at her favorite sculpture of Alice in Wonderland for inspiration. The statue was a gift to the children of the city from the publisher George Delacorte in 1959 and the sculptor, José de Creeft, used the donor’s features for the Mad Hatter. Sitting on a toadstool with her morning coffee became a routine ritual for Chelsea and part of her creative process. Last week she offered Alice one of her Glasskini sculptures!

Alice’s adventures have continued to inspire Chelsea since her move to Florida and she travels frequently through the looking glass, dreaming up her fabulous fused-glass costumes. Recently in London, she visited the Alice Curiouser & Curiouser exhibition at the V & A which has given her lots of ideas. In addition, much of her inspiration has come from WMODA exhibits and events, including Splash, The Mermaid Quest, and Safari for the Soul. See some of her new animal designs with leopard spots and zebra stripes come alive on beautiful models in her Safari Strut in December. See her new Alice in Wonderland collection at WMODA in January.

Chelsea Rousso is also leading our Mannequin Project in association with the Daniel and Trudy Regan Foundation in New York. As part of their Art Reborn experience initiated during the pandemic, Chelsea is literally picking up the pieces of glass to upcycle one of the mannequins which the Regans donated to the museum. Other artists working in the WMODA community are creating “shattered souls” with mirrors and mosaic glass, which will go on display in the Hot Glass Gallery at WMODA in December.

Lloyd Goradesky is renowned for his kindness project Let Love Guide Your Way and he chose hearts as the inspiration for his mannequin. Fortunately, his vision is a kind Queen of Hearts, rather than the bad-tempered monarch in Wonderland whose famous catchphrase was “Off with their heads!” Mannequins without heads or torsos have been fashioned into funky tables by Rey Lozano, who specializes in faux finishing designs for murals and functional art. His vibrantly decorated mannequins, bejeweled in rhinestones and reflective mirrors, also light up our lives as novel lamps. Rey has worked as a professional artist in South Florida for over 30 years and his artwork has taken many forms including Alice in Wonderland furniture.

Suzanne Barton has imagined an underwater Wonderland with a real live Alice swimming through the looking glass. Suzanne is well known in Florida for her Mythical Maidens photographs which include ballerinas and mermaids who dance for her under the water. She lets her imagination follow the energy and flow of their fantasies and then embellishes her photographs with acrylics and inks to create lyrical works of art. The ebb and flow of the tides have inspired Josh Fradis to create waves of glass in different sizes and ocean colors. Josh also makes hearts of glass that outshine the Queen of Hearts.

Through the Looking Glass @ WMODA, a dazzling array of exhibits and events, will be focused during Miami Art Week on December 1 to 4 and continue through Fort Lauderdale Art & Design Week from January 22 to 30.

Get in the festive mood on November 19 when Netflix airs its Holiday special Blown Away Christmas with five glass artists creating seasonal designs in the hot shop.

For more information about the Chihuly designs by The Rug Company, call 1 305 576 or visit their website

The Rug Company, DCOTA,
1855 Griffin Road, Suite C-116, Dania Beach, FL

Watch an interview about the creation of the Chihuly rugs with Leslie Chihuly and James Seuss CEO of The Rug Company.