Arts Craft Arts

Feature Artist: Ben Greene-Colonnese

Be Here Now. Ben Greene-Colonnese, artist

By Gina Malone

Glass artist Ben Greene-Colonnese remembers the moment he began to see the entire natural world around him as sculpture. “I took a hike to the rock cliffs at Rumbling Bald,” he says, “where I hiked aimlessly upwards until I came face to face with an ancient granite monolith surrounded by massive eroded boulders that had tumbled down the mountainside and been carved by the experience. It hit me like a ton of bricks! These stones looked like works of modern sculpture—and some seemed better made than works of art I’d studied in school.” From that moment, he began to incorporate what he saw in nature into his own work. An avid rock climber and fly fisherman, he has spent the last 10-plus years climbing, studying and creating artwork inspired by the southern Appalachian Mountains.

Happiness. Ben Greene-Colonnese, artist

Greene-Colonnese grew up in Fayetteville, the son of creative parents, and studied art at the Cleveland Institute of Art in Ohio. While he began creating two-dimensional art, once he made and held his first handblown glass cup, he realized that he loved working in three dimensions and, specifically in the medium of glass. After graduating with a BFA in glassblowing and casting, he received a traveling artist’s fellowship that let him wander around for a time in the western US, living in his 20-year-old Ford truck. Along the way, he collected large, unusual rocks that had been carved by wind and water. “By the time I got back to NC, I probably had 1,000 pounds of stone rattling around in the bed of that pick-up,” he says.

Asheville, with its vibrant arts scene—including a community of glass artists—and its abundant outdoors, drew Greene-Colonnese. He found himself welcomed into that community of artists and worked for a time for Alex Bernstein, whose parents Katherine and William Bernstein have been a part of the art glass movement in WNC from the beginning.

Today, Greene-Colonnese is married to Jenna and has a one-year-old daughter Harper, both of whom he enjoys sharing the natural world with. They live in Asheville and he works in a studio 20 feet from his front door.

“In my glasswork, I am attempting to create a visual bridge between two aesthetics: the primal aesthetic of the natural world and the aesthetic of the created form,” he says. “This bridge both honors the natural world as untamed and opaque, and transcends it with transparency. I find glass to be physically tactile, yet a surprisingly primal substance. In the joining of cast glass to natural stone, I am trying to find ways to aesthetically complement or echo original and naturally occurring forms with mirror-image glass forms. These joined pieces trigger for me—and I hope for the viewer—a sense of awe and wonder. Relatively small in terms of the large, greater world, they become scaled-down representatives—allowing us to take the grandeur of the natural world into our city spaces.”

Stones Resting. Ben Greene-Colonnese, artist

He uses the technique of lost wax casting, creating molds with soft wax that is then steamed out of a one-time-use mold he fills with molten glass. Once the molten glass has cooled, he can carve and polish the shape into a finished piece. Typically, he has had a vision of the completed piece in mind before he even begins.

“The process of casting glass is methodical and almost meditative,” Greene-Colonnese says. “There are so many complicated steps involved that I often find myself completely immersed in the process. The beauty, to me, is how slow and process-oriented the act is. Art is in my blood; I live and breathe it. I know it sounds corny, but when people ask me why I create, I can only reply that I make art because I have to.”

The owners of Wood Berry Gallery discovered and were immediately interested in Greene-Colonnese’s work when his parents visited the gallery last year and talked about their son’s work. “People are constantly commenting about the museum quality of his cast glass work,” says gallery co-owner Mark Holland. “Those pieces have an aura of ancient artifacts with their simplicity and translucent colors.” One of the works with sculpted glass affixed to stone in the gallery at present, he adds, is simply “monumental.”

Follow Ben Greene-Colonnese’s work on Instagram and Facebook @bgcglass. Among regional galleries representing his work is Wood Berry Gallery, 66 East Main Street, Saluda. Hours are Tuesday through Sunday 12 to 5:30 p.m. Learn more at

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