Kathleen Nelson: the magic of glass

“Green Planet” by Kathleen Nelson.

Well-known glass artist Dale Chihuly once commented, “Glass is the most magical of all material. It transmits light and color in very special ways.” Neuropsychologist and glass artist Kathleen Nelson could not agree more, but added, “It is surely a medium full of surprises.” Born in Pennsylvania, Nelson grew up throughout the West Coast. She credits her interest in the arts to her well-rounded education. In addition to this educational foundation, her parents actively encouraged her creativity and exploration, which influenced her passion for fused glass. Psychology caught Nelson’s interest during a high school elective class. She describes the teacher as “one of those people who could just make a subject come alive.” Years later, while she was traveling internationally with her husband’s job, Nelson enrolled in college-level correspondence classes. This motivated her to return to Scottsdale Community College, where she earned an associate degree. She transferred to ASU and obtained a Bachelor of Science degree in psychology, summa cum laude. She completed her graduate studies and was accepted into ASU’s doctoral program in clinical psychology. During her internship, she was introduced to neuropsychology, which developed into a 25-year career, helping people recover from traumatic brain injuries. Nelson had very little formal training in the arts. Much of her information about glasswork comes from workshops. “The contributing factors to my interest in glass was a few art history classes in college and a European tour, where I came face to face with the most magnificent glasswork in the stained-glass windows of ancient cathedrals,” she said. Working with glass became a form of therapy for Nelson. “Glass was one way to decompress from work,” she said. “While working in the medium, I could concentrate completely on the project, sometimes using the other side of my brain to help solve a problem at work from a different perspective.” One of the most rewarding aspects of glass is how it interacts with different light sources. Sometimes she captures the perfect combination of color in the medium, but other times unintended consequences create surprises. Nelson and her husband live in North Scottsdale, where they were able to build their home with a separate studio space, generous enough for both of them to work. They are members of the Sonoran Arts League and participate in the annual Hidden in the Hills Studio Tour the last two weekends in November. Nelson participates in smaller shows during the year and occasionally offers glass classes. Info: sonoranartsleague.org or imagesinglassaz@aol.com Contact Arts Columnist Shea Stanfield on flowingquill@yahoo.com