Nancy Otto

Nancy Otto

Invasive Species, 2014

Glass and Bamboo. 60 x 24 x 6 in.

Each day, the news depicts the struggle between the human desire for comfort and the cost to our planet. This piece is a bamboo abacus, an ancient counting tool used mostly in Asia – the precursor to the calculator and computer. Each of the 65 handblown glass beads has a newspaper headline illuminating global warming. The headlines were gathered over the past year from different newspapers and periodicals from all over the world. The abacus is set to the number of people on the planet the day I completed it on February 12, 2014 -- 7 billion, 212 million, 826 thousand, 445 people.

The concept for this piece came to me through my daily Buddhist practice. Each day I meditated on the anguish I felt reading newspaper headlines and seeing the harm done by humans to the planet. Making this abacus, and transforming that pain, required discipline and perseverance. 

Each bead was shaped by hand by my team and me, using calipers to create consistent size and shape. I used a diamond lathe to ground the holes on the top and bottom of each bead, a time consuming process that could only be tolerated by staying completely present. I scanned various newspapers and periodicals throughout the year looking for the right headlines. After creating a film negative of each headline, I sandblasted each one onto a bead. Ultimately, my focus was on the composition of the text and the juxtaposition of each bead on each spindle.

Nancy Otto

Nancy Otto

Invasive Species, 2014 (detail)

Glass and Bamboo. 60 x 24 x 6 in.

Nancy Otto

Nancy Otto

Invasive Species, 2014 (detail)

Glass and Bamboo. 60 x 24 x 6 in.

Nancy Otto

Nancy Otto

Invasive Species, 2014 (detail)

Glass and Bamboo. 60 x 24 x 6 in.

Nancy Otto

Nancy Otto

Zen Beans, 2012

Glass. 8 x 5 in.

Contemplative pieces that suspend a sunken and elongated layer of melted colors.

 Zen Beans, 2012 (detail)   Glass .  8 x 5 in.   Contemplative pieces that suspend a sunken and elongated layer of melted colors.

Zen Beans, 2012 (detail)

Glass. 8 x 5 in.

Contemplative pieces that suspend a sunken and elongated layer of melted colors.

Nancy Otto

Nancy Otto

Influence, 2010

Glass, Metal. Installation. Dimensions variable. Approx. 20 - 28 x 6.5 in. each

For much of my life, I have struggled with the concept of family. Who is family to me? And who gets to decide: Me? Society? Tradition? 

Most of my family lives halfway around the world in Japan.  Their language and customs are difficult to learn and master.  I fear they will never see me as a full family member.

I am gay.  That affects who wants to claim me as a family member.

And now, in my home, I find myself in a family with children who are not my own, but possibly mine.

My ancestors also struggled with the question of who is family. 

My mom, born in Japan out of wedlock, was considered a disgrace and was rejected by her father’s family. 

Neighborhood kids in St. Louis teased my father that his stepmother was not his real mother, forever altering his connection to her. 

My great aunt disowned my father and his brother when they each divorced their wives simultaneously.  These wives became the caregivers for my great aunt until she died.

When I was in college over 25 years ago, I recorded interviews with my family members to get their perspectives on how events affected family relationships and dynamics.  

This installation contemplates the wounds of exclusion and difference, accompanied by clips from these interviews with my family, all of whom but one are now deceased.

Nancy Otto

Nancy Otto

Influence, 2010 (installation view)

Glass, Metal. Installation. Dimensions variable. Approx. 20 - 28 x 6.5 in. each

Nancy Otto

Nancy Otto

Influence, 2010 (detail)

Glass, Metal. Installation. Dimensions variable. Approx. 20 - 28 x 6.5 in. each

Nancy Otto

Nancy Otto

Influence, 2010 (detail)

Glass, Metal. Installation. Dimensions variable. Approx. 20 - 28 x 6.5 in. each

Nancy Otto

Nancy Otto

Influence, 2010 (detail)

Glass, Metal. Installation. Dimensions variable. Approx. 20 - 28 x 6.5 in. each

Nancy Otto

Nancy Otto

Influence, 2010 (detail)

Glass, Metal. Installation. Dimensions variable. Approx. 20 - 28 x 6.5 in. each

Nancy Otto

Nancy Otto

Influence, 2010 (exhibition installation view)

Glass, Metal. Installation. Dimensions variable. Approx. 20 - 28 x 6.5 in. each

Nancy Otto

Nancy Otto

Kiss, 2011

Glass. Dimensions variable.

Completely enclosed stretched and contorted lines of transparent color.

Nancy Otto

Nancy Otto

Kiss, 2011 (detail)

Glass. Dimensions variable.

Completely enclosed stretched and contorted lines of transparent color.

Nancy Otto

Nancy Otto

Kiss, 2011

Glass. Dimensions variable.

Completely enclosed stretched and contorted lines of transparent color.

Nancy Otto

Nancy Otto

Kiss, 2011 (detail)

Glass. Dimensions variable.

Completely enclosed stretched and contorted lines of transparent color.

Nancy Otto

Nancy Otto

Pink Gas

This piece was created for the "Think Before You Pink" exhibition benefiting Breast Cancer Action (BCA). BCA's Think Before You Pink campaign was launched in 2002 in response to the growing concern about the overwhelming number of pink ribbon products and promotions on the market sold to advance the breast cancer cause. 

The list of pink ribbon products grows every year. From candy to clothing to automobiles, thousands of companies are pinning pink ribbons on their products in an attempt to boost their image and their profits by connecting themselves to a good cause.

Nancy Otto

Nancy Otto

Pink Gas (detail)

Nancy Otto

Nancy Otto

Pink Gas (detail)

Nancy Otto

Nancy Otto

Treat, 2008 (installation view)

Blown and engraved glass. 13 x 9 in. each.

Playful m&m's defy gravity.

Nancy Otto

Nancy Otto

Treat, 2008 (detail)

Blown and engraved glass. 13 x 9 in. each.

Nancy Otto

Nancy Otto

Treat, 2008 (detail)

Blown and engraved glass. 13 x 9 in. each.

Nancy Otto

Nancy Otto

Treat, 2008 (detail)

Blown and engraved glass. 13 x 9 in. each.

Nancy Otto

Nancy Otto

Sacred Illusions, 2004

Glass, Satin, Ribbon. 36 x 36 x 9 in.

Marriage as an act of civil disobedience sparked “Sacred Illusions,” two hand blown glass ten-inch wedding bands atop a 36-inch satin hot pink ring pillow. On one band is inscribed, “Marriage is between a man and a woman of the same race, religion, status, ability,” and on the other band is an excerpt of a poem by Rumi, “what was said to the rose that made it open was said to me here in my chest.” 

"Sacred Illusions" was inspired by the unexpected opening of marriage to lesbian and gay couples in San Francisco in 2004. While those marriages were later invalidated by the courts, the power of love that sparked those unrecognized weddings eventually led to the California Supreme Court ruling that denying lesbian and gay couples the right to marry was unconstitutional. California has now become the second state in the United States to extend marriage rights to lesbian and gay couples.

Nancy Otto

Nancy Otto

Sacred Illusions, 2004 (detail)

Glass, Satin, Ribbon. 36 x 36 x 9 in.

Nancy Otto

Nancy Otto

Sacred Illusions, 2004 (detail)

Glass, Satin, Ribbon. 36 x 36 x 9 in.