Local artist brings light and life to glass sculptures

Working in a converted 100-year-old barn on his family’s East Bethel farm, Joe Becker sculpts and blows and cuts and grinds glass into one-of-a-kind artwork.

The artist rests among plates of glass stacked and stored and ready for creative reincarnation.
The artist rests among plates of glass stacked and stored and ready for creative reincarnation. Photo by Sue Austreng

Becker heats glass in ovens he built himself in the barn-become-studio, cuts glass with a century-old saw and draws inspiration from the life and death and history and renewal that surrounds him.

A nationally-recognized glassblower and plate-glass sculptor, Becker exhibits in major art shows and festivals each year and is a life-long resident of East Bethel.

This past winter, the artist won second place in a juried art show called “Seeing God.” That art show featured artists “whose creative process captures a sense of the divine when seeing the world,” said Kathleen Lindstrom, spokeswoman for the Benedictine Center of Maplewood, sponsor of the art show.

According to Lindstrom, nearly 30 artists submitted their work for the “Seeing God” art show.

Becker described the symbolism and significance of his artwork.

“I work with glass because its translucence captures the ethereal nature of the divine being and the three-dimensionality of sculpture brings clarity to our human senses,” he said.

His sculpture, Trinity, “makes vivid the oneness of God while at the same time showing how I perceive the three divine persons,” he said.

Trinity was created as Becker grieved his mother’s death, creating jagged, pounded-out pieces and ultimately joining those together with clear plates.

“The sharp, jagged edges represent fear and anger … The larger, clear, shining plates represent love, hope, joy, and meaning – the truest part of who we are,” Becker said.

The artist described his work and talked about the inspiration he finds.

“When I begin, I just sit with the pieces and listen … listen to God, to the universe. And they tell me what they want. I’m just part of the oneness of being,” he said, and then talked about how that “oneness” comes to light as he works the glass.

“By bringing light to something, the darkness goes away,” he said. “I believe humans are happiness and creativity, hope, love, joy. The fear and anger – those are foreign, that doesn’t belong. And when you bring light, the darkness goes away.”

In fact, Becker is often commissioned to create custom-made art “that brings color, light and fluidity into someone’s life,” said Lindstrom.

The artist talked about the spirituality imbedded in his artwork.

“I believe everything in life is spiritual, and that’s a theme that runs through my work,” Becker said.

“Everybody deserves love, everybody deserves to live in the light. My sculpture may help bring someone into an awareness of their true being, and that makes me glad.”

Becker has a bachelor of arts degree in art from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls and a business degree from Anoka Ramsey Community College.

The East Bethel resident began working with glass more than a quarter-century ago and has since found himself at home in a community of artists.

“There are 25 to 30 glassblowers right in this area, and we are all so supportive of each other,” he said, describing the north metro area artists community.

“I’m happy to be here. This is home,” he said, walking across the farm land from his studio to his home.

Sue Austreng is at
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