is a copy of a newspaper story ran by The Black Hills Pioneer, Friday
March 3rd, 2000
written by Chris Roman
Lead artist works in glass and light
Chances are that even if you've been there, you may not have seen it.
At the new Visitors' Center at Mt. Rushmore, between the ice cream bar
and the dining room, sits the largest glass mural in America: a 20-foot-high,
40-foot-wide, white buffalo entitled "The Stand."
A work of astonishing detail and intricacy, because 'The Stand" is
both translucent and transparent, when all the lights are on it is easy
to miss, unless one knows where to look.
'The Stand" is the creation of Lead artist Scott Prentice. Since
January 2000, Prentice has been operating out of his new storefront on
Lead's Main Street. Prentice explains that his work in what is known as
art-carved glass began innocently enough over 25 years ago as he was helping
to sandblast some glass. An artist by nature, Prentice refined his skills
over the years. As a young man in a rural community, he was generally
unaware of the existence of glass etching as an established art form and
actually created his own techniques to design his work.It was only later,
as he became more and more accomplished, that he learned of supplies made
by companies such as 3M and computer programs that could actually facilitate
his progress. Prentice is quick to clarify the difference between glass
etching and blasting as a craft versus the artistry involved in true art-carved
glass. Although glass etching itself is fairly common, as evidenced by
the sheer numbers of beer and restaurant signage in existence, Prentice
claims that, "There are probably only six or seven other people in
the country working at the artistic level that I strive for. I've seen
a square foot of glass going for $30 and I've seen the same size selling
for $10,000 or more," notes Prentice. "Obviously, the difference
is in the amount of effort and artistry that goes into a given piece."
Prentice also says that whereas most works of art are created to stand
alone and "stab the viewer" with their presence, art-carved
glass is much more subtle. It enhances and alters the total environment.
In Prentice's words, "It creates harmonic balance." He talks
about the Main Street of Deadwood as an example. "Did you ever notice
how the glass work on the Midnight Star (which he did not create) somehow
transforms the entire area?" he asked.
Explaining the actual process of creating a piece such as 'The Stand,"
Prentice says, "When I'm blasting, I'm thinking in absolute reverse.
Where you're thinking positive I'm thinking negative." He clarifies
that the observer is looking at the front of a piece of glass, looking
at the white buffalo. The buffalo is created, however, by Prentice standing
behind the glass and sand blasting in reverse. To Prentice, the art work
is seen as a mirror image and whereas the final image will appear white
to the viewer, he envisions it as black. This is accomplished through
the use of a frisket. A frisket is a thick piece of rubbery paper with
adhesive on one side which is laid down over the entire piece of glass
Prentice will be working on. He then uses freehand to create the art that
will be etched in the glass - entirely in reverse. At times a computer
may help, as in the mirror image creation of letters or numbers or words,
but for the most part the artistry flows directly from Prentice's freehand
skills. Once the art has been drawn on the frisket, Prentice uses a scalpel
to cut along the lines, exposing the glass that is to be blasted. This
is why he says that in the final creation, what is transparent to the
viewer is originally white to him. Conversely, that which will ultimately
appear white to the observer - the art itself - appears as a dark area
prior to the blasting. There are so many places where things can go wrong.
The frisket itself is a touchy piece of material to put in place. Next
the cutting of the frisket offers ample opportunity for error. "Once
the frisket has been cut, you can't put it back," notes Prentice.
Then there is the sandblasting itself. It is performed in an enclosed
shed, with Prentice fully clothed in protective gear, including a respirator.
The high pressure spraying of sand onto apiece of glass produces tens
of thousands of particulates in the air that can cause both external and
internal injury. As if that were not enough to worry about, a full stream
of sand (which can be comprised of silica or aluminum oxide or even finely
ground garnet) will punch a hole in a three-eighths inch thick pane of
glass in about three seconds. To create the 3-D effect that is so intriguing
in the glass-carved art, Prentice must actually vary the time the sand
is blasting onto the glass, all the time keeping the three-second window
in mind. In other words, just a fraction of a second too long and "the
piece is toast."
"The Stand" took just six
20-hour days to create. This was not Prentice's choice, but the reality
of the time he was given from when the contract was awarded to the grand
opening of the Rushmore Visitor's Center. Because he had to work with
glass that was already in place, instead of in his workshop, Prentice
had to build a temporary workshop out of heavy-duty plastic with a large
diameter tube venting to the outside. When he was done, there were more
than 400 pounds of ground garnet and glass to be recycled and carried
The Park Service claims that, other than Mt. Rushmore itself, "The
Stand" is the second most photographed piece of art in all of South
Prentice also has five other pieces
on display at the facility, which he calls his "Wild Life Series."
These include a mountain lion, an elk, a mountain goat, a big-horned sheep
and a coyote. In addition to the six days taken to create "The Stand,"
the "Wild Life Series" took an additional four.
Prentice invites all residents and visitors to the Northern Black Hills
to visit his new workspace in Lead which is now located up on Richmond
hill.. There you may find out more about this unique art of glass carving
and perhaps turn some of your own ethereal dreams into a translucent reality.