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Biography: Amy Hughes

Amy Hughes

Identifying intersections between trauma, political dissent, and modernism in postwar Czechoslovakian glass sculptures is the subject of Amy Hughes’ dissertation research. A recipient of the 2019 Rakow Grant for Glass Research, Hughes' research “builds on Central European concepts of dissent as efforts to open spaces for critical thinking and expression." She will argue that dissent is "the negotiation of refracted memory manifested in objects, public glassmaking processes, and affective responses.”

Her study will concentrate on the Czech glassmakers Stanislav Libenský and Jaroslava Brychtová to redefine the political work of avant-garde modernism. “Postwar Czechoslovakian glass sculpture took abstract and decorative forms, lending glasswork particular support by the Communist regime,” Hughes says. “I demonstrate that, with this inside position, glass constituted an important medium of political dissent during Communism.”

Hughes' fieldwork will include an examination of artists’ and institutional archives, oral history interviews, and “in situ formal analysis.” These are part of her “critical investigation of postwar Czechoslovakian glass [that] establishes the important roles decoration, transparency, and emptiness played in dissent practices ... Calling attention to the agency of affective practices of glassmaking to express political dissent within dissent studies identifies the critical roles undertaken by glass to both conceal and reveal traumatic experiences of living under the totalitarian regime.”

Hughes intends to use her research as the basis, not only for her dissertation, but also for an exhibition and related catalog that explores affect as a political strategy in modernist glass.