Inside the studio with John Denis
Miami based artist John Denis has devised a unique medium with which to make his dynamic sculptures! Denis has mastered his process to create fused glass and acrylic sculptures, harnessing the spirit of the ocean.
Denis has been honing his craft for more than 25 years! This new medium allows his sculptures to have height and dimension that is not achievable with other techniques. John notes “it’s the marriage between light, form and texture” that’s important when creating his pieces.
Light is a huge factor for these pieces. In fact, many of his collectors place them in front of windows or with lights directed on them to enhance the shine through the sculptures. Best viewed in 360, Denis’s durable and textured sculptures are one-of-a-kind!
One example, Glacier (above), rises up like a wave foaming and rolling across the top of the ocean!
Another example, Soleil (above) is a clear blue and metallic fused glass sculpture, which fans out like the wings of a bird.
Music is another important component of Denis’s artistic practice. He began playing music at the young age of 9 years old! By 15 he was the lead singer and songwriter for an original band. Four years ago, the band got back together and over the last few years Denis has participated in the band and now branched out to be a solo artist. His new music project, launched in association with a major music label, has been a huge influence on his sculpture as well!
The uniquely crafted sculptures have taken place in over 100 juried shows and art fairs including New York Art Expo, Art Market Bridge Hampton, Hamptons Fine Art Fair, and most recently, CONTEXT Art Miami 2022. Additionally, Denis has completed public and private instillations!
You can follow Denis on Instagram @johnjosephdenis and listen to his music on Spotify. Read on below to learn what he would do if he had endless free time!
Where did you first come up with the fused glass idea?
I was approached by a client at an art show who owned a five-story commercial building in St. Petersburg, Florida. He wanted to do an elaborate installation of glass art in his five-story building which at the time seemed almost impossible. I came up with a sample piece and he loved it! That was the beginning.
Can you discuss the process of creating your fused glass sculptures? What is the tallest sculpture you have made?
I start with basic hand tools by carving a form in plaster. I have a general concept of what I want the piece to be, at the same time I let the work develop on its own through the process.
I then use this form as a template for the glass and acrylic, then finalize the art.
The tallest piece I’ve ever made was a hanging ceiling installation over 20 ft in length.
You live in Miami, correct? What influence does the ocean and beach have on your work?
I live in Miami Beach and my studio is near the Design district.
This location is definitely a major influence and catalyst for my approach towards the art. The area keeps my perspective alive and in the moment!
What is your studio like? What materials and tools are essential for the process?
The front of my studio is the “clean room”. It acts as a showroom and music space. Past the dividing wall there is my work area where I have tables staging the current works in progress. The most advanced tool in the studio is a handheld grinder. There are absolutely no 3D printers or CNC machines on the premises. It’s just hammers, chisels and basic power tools. I always work in solitude with just music in the foreground. I have found this is how I can really focus and dive into the mental space needed for the work.
Are there projects that you are hoping to create/ work in the new year?
I just recently met with a board group for a staging in a large commercial building in Boca Raton. They gave the green light to go forward with five pieces for the lobby and elevator entrance.
Also, early this summer I will be releasing an art book titled A Conversation With Sculpture. The publication will include photos of the art with short poems that relate to the work along with studio shots.
It will be available internationally through many retailers including Barnes and Noble and Amazon.
Do you have any time for experimentation?
Lately I have been taking more chances with larger, more complex work. In the last couple of years the approach has definitely been more open and adventurous .
You also create music, and it can be listened to on Spotify? Can you discuss your music and how it relates to your sculpture/ other art?
I have a piano set up in my studio and have included music as part of my whole process. I write original songs and record them in the studio, then send the tracks off to other musicians for them to record their parts. It has really helped me to approach the sculpture with a broader sensibility. My music can be found on all the major platforms under my name.
When you are not making art, what is a day in your life like?
The ideal day off, time at the beach and the cafe. Then, I search for a new bookstore or a record store. Then, I connect with friends. always keeping the eyes and ears open.
If you had endless money, time, materials and energy what would you create/ do?
My dream project would be to produce and perform a live show for a theater circuit that would include my music and sculpture together in one performance.