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Mirrors as Art

When considering Timothy Poe’s work in the medium of mirrored glass we are
confronted with a variety of stimulating challenges that range from the historical to the
philosophical and which include the ever present question, “is it art or is it decorative?” This
abstract, conceptual work demands a high degree of participation from the viewer and requires
consideration of the viewer’s life experiences in order to fully appreciate the finished subject.
Gazing upon one’s own reflection doubtless began in the mists of time with humans viewing
their reflections in water. The deeper meaning of reflection generally would have occurred early
as well when a human would see an entire landscape reflected in a lake. From a philosophical
perspective, considering the meaning of reflection is a provocative pursuit that offers more
questions than answers. What is real? Is something real just because I can see it – or do I need
to be able to touch it as well. The mountain is real because I can climb it but its reflection is a
perfect replica – yet I cannot climb the reflection. Does this mean the reflection is not real?
The desire for a portable reflecting device – what we call a mirror – began early and
consisted largely of highly polished metals. The ability to produce glass was quickly followed
by attempts to coat the backs of pieces of glass with various materials in order to create a clear
reflection. How successful these sorts of early mirrors actually were in creating a perfect, stilllake
type reflection may be judged by the early 17th century King James Version of I Corinthians
13:12 where the translators chose to use the phrase “For now we see through a glass (a mirror)
darkly; but then face to face” thereby suggesting that a mirror image – in the 17th century at least
– is a compromised view when compared to the real thing.
In each of the works, a ghostly image of the viewer is incorporated in the abstract
patterns created by Poe on the glass. The viewer’s image is very much of the “through a glass
darkly” variety, however, and here begins the first question: who among us can really see himself
or herself clearly? Are we just shadows in the large landscape?
Due to the reflective nature of mirrors, the positioning of a Timothy Poe mirror piece has
an enormous impact on the work. Having had the opportunity to view a piece installed in a ninth
floor suite with glass walls on three sides of the room, the installation was capturing muted and
altered reflections of the farther landscape and also included the movement of a flock of geese
flying by. In the midst of this was the subdued silhouette of the viewer – me – as a part of the
scene but not a dominant part – simply one part of a larger whole. One may in infer from this
that, in viewing a Poe piece in place, one is actually reflecting on the meaning of reflection itself.
Then the omnipresent question: is this art, or fine art, or decorative art? It has always
been my contention that this question is answered daily by the viewers of objects all around the
world. It is a question that is answered without much input from the artist or the artist’s original
intent. If a viewer considers Botticelli’s representational The Birth of Venus or Pollack’s abstract
Number 7, 1951 and begins to consider how well those colors or patterns would fill a wall, the
work has just become decorative. Conversely, if a viewer considers either of these works and
finds that he or she is being challenged or uplifted in a way that transcends notions of the effect
of the piece in a given space, the miracle of art is occurring. The artistic merit of a piece truly
lies in the mind of a viewer and whether or not he or she chooses to – or is even equipped to —
Having said that, the mirrored works by Timothy Poe possess a living quality due to their
ability to incorporate the surrounding environment into the work. They can be forced into
serving a decorative function by emphasizing the dimensions and by using them as an alternative
to a conventional mirror of similar dimensions in a setting where a conventional mirror might be
expected in a décor. In this instance, notions of “au courant” or “edgy” come to mind. While
there is certainly nothing inherently wrong in using these works – or any works of art – as
contributing components of a decorative scheme, the emphasis of the decorative placement
certain dilutes, and sadly so, the artistic side of these pieces. And yet, the compositions are so
strong that they can overcome a decorative placement and still give pause to an intelligent viewer
who looks beyond the idea of whether the colors in the glass are complimenting the color scheme
of the setting. A Poe piece provides an opportunity to grapple for a moment with questions that
have arisen since the earliest humans saw themselves and a mountain reflecting in a lake and
wondered – is it real? Is that me? Who and what am I? And this is a very marvelous challengellenge

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When Reflection Becomes Art

Techniques for this style of Eglomise’ utilizing the reflective silver surface of a new / clear mirror have evolved from my experience. An antique furniture restoration business during the 80’s, decorative painting during the 90’s, melled with art studio classes while at UAB. Art takes time and as my development continued, the appropriation of the experience of working with various materials and processes contributed as I pealed back the layers of the onion. My current style of Eglomise’ with reflective elements where color saturation, light & dark areas of tarnish present in the remaining silver coating from the back of the plate glass, create a unique apostolic composition that can be somewhat difficult to reason and take in. I am frequently asked “what is this & how was it made”.
And where… I know of no other artist painting exactly like this, although my former company Mirrortique continue with the techniques I developed and although where Mirrortique’s focus is primary toward the reflection of the mirror, an object of decorative utility… A smaller portion of my work could be considered decorative although, it is not intention, realizing the mystery of art, the direction of my muse in each work. The percentage of reflective silver elements in my work will for the greater part always be less than forms of color and dark tarnish. The fact that these objects of art began as mirror, an object of decorative utility, is something a stigma and one that I hope to eventually overcome. A comparative analogy might be where the canvas used by a painter, stretched over a frame and painted, is albeit a piece of cloth and standing alone a singular woven fiber sheet one might not consider the canvas art, unless in the most minimal perspective. Some have found my work distracting because of the reflective elements within, I consider this aspect of my work a conduit of metaphysical reasoning, where one might experience a sense of there creation inside the work, mixed, melled and for a moment woven into the fabric of the 7 elements of design with perhaps reflection as the 8th element. A double- entendre if you will of physical and mental perception, while considering the meaning and feeling, a subjective experience.

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The Beginning

Timothy R. Poe Studio

I want to hide objective reasoning, where subjective reason might stand in the forefront. Art courts the physic, most respond to color emotionally. Color, form and symbols interpreted by culture and experience, we reason and feel thru subjective and objective reasoning. These windows of abstract color and form I produce are a behind the looking glass effort, a photo mosaic where neuroscience and imagination create opportunity for personal introspection, consideration of other dimensions, life just out side of our present existence. Where our bodies are a composite of all of the elements of our universe and when looking through the glass, one might consider the origin of our existence, we see ourselves, in the art, a reflection of creation.

A experiential transition to my current style of Eglomise’ with reflective elements / reverse painting on plate glass mirror began in 1994 when the Birmingham Museum of Art sponsored an exhibition of the Pilchuck Glass School Artists featuring Dale Chihuly. The summer of the same year I attended a session at the Pilchuck Glass School in Seattle learning lead crystal casting techniques. After completion of a degree in Art Studio at the University of Alabama here in Birmingham I began my tenure as fine artist in June of 1996 establishing a hot glass / multi media studio in a space in the former Republic Steel facility in the confines of Wade Sand & Gravel here in Birmingham. Robin and Caroline Wade provided the space where I continue my work. In 2005 my primary medium was cast and blown glass, it was my ninth year at the Republic Steel Works Studio, pondering the what next, what would be the next style and or medium to explore? In the spring of 2005, a local interior designer contacted me to ask if I could antique a large mirror for her home? “ I have never done this Betty but, will give it a try… just for you”! Through experimentation and a few serendipitous experiences, I discovered a unique way to tarnish the reflective coating on plate glass mirror, developing an alkaline gel that allowed the reflective coating to tarnish / etch without using acid. I reasoned that an antiqued mirror surface might also have objects imprinted into the mirrors reflective coating. This was the initial introduction of my efforts to create the look of an aged / distressed mirrored surface using new plate glass mirror, making a positive impact on the world of design and the lives of those who have adopted the techniques to produce unique objects that reflect light, project light and color, the reflective coating of the mirror became an element of design, perhaps an 8th element… My current style of Eglomise’ with reflective elements / reverse painting on plate glass mirror came out of this antique mirror experience, incorporating experience of previous years of decorative and abstract painting and sculpture into a unique proprietary style of art. I will continue to find opportunity to work in the various mediums, including, cast glass, metal, wood, etc. What the idea calls for, I will find…