Keeper of the Plans

She carved all of her Facebook friends in glass. See all 864 of them in Wichita

A detail shot of Charlotte Potter's "Pending" installation, as part of "Cameo in Context" at the Wichita Art Museum.
A detail shot of Charlotte Potter's "Pending" installation, as part of "Cameo in Context" at the Wichita Art Museum. Wichita Art Museum

Attention all of Charlotte Potter’s Facebook friends: Don’t change your profile picture.

At least not until September.

Potter, a Vermont-based artist, has spent more than three years hand-carving her 864 Facebook friends into miniature glass portraits, known as cameos. That’s not even counting her hundreds of pending friend-requests, whose profile pictures are featured in another work.

The work is part of a rare glass show opening at the Wichita Art Museum this Saturday, called “Cameo in Context.”

What’s so rare about it?

It features modern engraved glass, a technique that has largely fallen out of popularity in the United States, as Americans tend to favor blown glass in the Chihuly tradition, according to Vicki Halper, a glass art expert and guest curator of “Cameo in Context.” The Wichita Art Museum itself has a large Chihuly glass sculpture towering above its Great Hall.

Engraved glass, known as “cold glass” in art circles, is more time-consuming and intricate, Halper said.

“I thought when I did this exhibition that I would have a huge number of Americans to choose from and it would be a big group show,” Halper said. “It turned out that there were these two incredible artists and very little else.”

The exhibition will feature Potter’s Facebook-themed work, as well as more photo-realistic glass art by April Surgent.

Potter specializes in cameo glass, a technique pioneered by the Romans and revived in the Art Nouveau period at the turn of the 20th century.

Cameo glass works by fusing two different-colored layers of glass to one another, typically with an opaque white layer on top.

The artist then carves away the top layer of glass until the bottom layer starts to show through – thus creating art with various shades and tones on one thin sheet of glass.

Think of (mostly) two-dimensional pictures, not vases or sculptures.

Potter and Surgent both carve their glass art using photographs – candid Facebook snapshots in Potter’s case and intricate portraits in Surgent’s work.

“April is this fantastic technician whose interest is in reflection and precise recording, almost scientific, of what the word looks like in its huge complexity, and its exactness,” Halper said. “She’s maybe the most skilled living engraver that I’ve come across.”

The exhibition also features engraved pieces from the Wichita Art Museum’s permanent collection, including ancient Roman glass art and cameos from Britain and France.

“Cameo in Context” runs through Sept. 9.

Wichita Art Museum

What: Opening of "Cameo in Context" glass art exhibition

Where: Wichita Art Museum, 1400 W. Museum Blvd.

When: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Sat.

Admission: Free on Saturdays. All other days, $7 for adults, $5 for seniors 60+ and $3 for students with ID and youth 5-17.