Spotlight - Artist John D'Agostino by Jessica Colarossi It all began with a leap of faith and an artist's eye for thirty-six year old artist John D'Agostino, a photographer based out of New York who has perfected his unique art of creating stunning images of rare Tiffany glass pieces. “The glass is sort of our family relics,” John said during a recent interview session. He would have never been able to develop his artistry if it had not been for his Grandfather, Vito D'Agostino, who retrieved and stored the glass before it was tossed into the East River during the Great Depression. Following the death of Louis Comfort Tiffany in 1933, the company quickly claimed bankruptcy thus prompting the liquidation of Tiffany Studios. Vito, the savior of the glass, gathered and stored them in the family's basement for decades. Nearly seventy-five years later, John resurrected them; recreating a piece of history and retelling his family’s story through his photography. "One day, almost by accident, I started photographing them," he said. "After a while, I realized that within each piece of glass was a little world unto itself; sort of a separate little universe of its own." This did not happen overnight, though. It can literally take up to a year to figure out the correct lighting for each glass piece, or how to light them in different ways since they are all so diverse. "I shot them, and then shot them again, and then had to re-shoot them again," John explains. "A number of different images are in fact made from the exact same piece of glass." Looking at one of the images, you would think it was a water color painting, or possibly an up close image of the universe, or even an abstract landscape of a far away land. That is part of the beauty in John’s work; each image tells a different story for all that gaze upon them. John even chose to call himself an "experimenter" since there is never the same thing twice. This artistic "light" is a passion passed down from generation to generation. His father, also an artist, is a huge inspiration to John. His dad's expressionist collage paintings are something that John has been around his whole life. "I let everything inspire me, just as his work has an array of historical and cultural references." For himself, John looks up to painters such as Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko, and literary luminaries like William Blake and Friedrich Nietzsche. "Dad calls it his 'bloodline' of inspiration, and I might too." Similar to artistry itself, his "discriminating eye" for masterpieces was most likely passed down by his grandfather who only collected the best museum quality work. "My dad and I would often go to a big museum, see a Tiffany there and not be too impressed, thinking nope, it's not the best of its class, grandpa Vito has a better one at home!" Tiffany glass itself has intertwined its way into the D'Agostino family history. "So I guess it's both my blessing and my curse. It's the standard I'm used to. In my family you sort of have to try to live up to it." John’s photography not only reconnects family ties, but it is an abstract synthesis of past and present that creates something completely new out of something that has been around for almost a hundred years. “Innovation is the thing that really drives me. The ability to take something old or commonplace, and transform it, enliven it, and make it better.” John’s unique kind of innovation has landed him numerous honorable spots in the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, The Haggerty Museum of Art at Marquette University, Milwaukee, The Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas, The Museum of Photographic Arts, San Diego and the Southeast Museum of Photography in Dayton State College. His most recent installation is in a new building in the lobby of Ten23, New York City on the corner of 23rd and 10th. To keep up check John’s website at www.empireofglass.com where you can view his pieces and learn more about their history, and how to purchase one for yourself. John D'Agostino was recognized as one of "The Ten Most Exciting Photographers" at The Phoenix Art Museum, and on Lindsay Pollock's Art Market Views, Editor-in-Chief of Art in America. His images have appeared in The New York Times, Photographer’s Forum, Time Out, as an award winner in The PX3 Prix de la Photographie Paris, featured in Silvershotz: The International Journal of Fine Art Photography, and on the cover of Glass Quarterly. His paper, "The Strength to Dream: How Remnants of the Past Illustrate A Legacy of the Representation of Vision" was recently published in Artforum's Art&Education. His work is in the permanent collections of The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, and The Haggerty Museum of Art at Marquette University, Milwaukee, among others.