Alex Gabriel Bernstein grew up in a creative environment with access to many of the artists of the American studio glass movement. As the child of two established glass artists, William and Katherine Bernstein, the beautiful surroundings of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Western North Carolina where they lived played almost as much a part in his inspired upbringing as did the breadth of teachers around him.
“I love what I do. As humans, we need our physical touch with objects, so I feel lucky to be able to make something,” says Bernstein. He received his undergraduate degree in psychology at the University of North Carolina in Asheville and worked in a children’s psychiatric hospital. He believes in the direct correlation between physical movement and healthy cognitive abilities. “Mental Health is connected to your hands. Using your body contributes to your overall mental wellbeing.”
This innate desire to work with his hands lead him to earning his Master of Fine Arts degree from the Rochester Institute of Technology, teaching art for a while, and then on to pursuing art as a full-time career. He now revels in the gratifying and laborious process of casting, carving, and sculpting beautiful glass works that have earned national critical ac- claim. Bernstein explains that other than the tools being motorized, the technique of sculpture hasn’t changed since ancient times—chipping and chiseling at an object to create a form. While the art form may be timeworn, Bernstein is always seeking ways of being innovative. “I want to create something I’ve never seen,” explains Bernstein, “This exploration of new ideas is what drives my fire, my passion.”
Both of Bernstein’s parents are also glass artists, and his latest tech- nique was discovered by accident while visiting his father’s glass studio. Bernstein was using a welding torch a little too close to one of his father’s creations, when the sparks from the hot steel stuck to the glass and created an intriguing rough texture. After exploring and refining the process, his metal-spark technique was born.
Preferring to work in series, his latest body of work was inspired by the Dolomites, the jagged and awe-inspiring mountain range in northeastern Italy. He encountered their beauty from the seat of his bicycle—he’s an avid cyclist. The series features pillars of glass that resemble smooth crystals emerging from rough, metallic feathers, utilizing his new metal-spark technique.
Bernstein laughs when told the works look like they would be found in Superman’s sparkling home on the planet Krypton. For now, he’s happy creating in his own lair overlooking the French Broad River in North Carolina.
Bernstein’s work is included in numerous collections, including those of the Corning Museum of Glass, the Glasmuseum in Fraue- nau, Germany, the Mellon Financial Corporation, the Palm Springs Art Museum, Imagine Museum, Mayo Clinic, Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and Philadelphia Museum of Art.