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Clifford Rainey: A Life's Travelogue in Cast Glass

Talking Out Your Glass podcast

Release Date: 03/29/2024

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Talking Out Your Glass podcast

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Talking Out Your Glass podcast

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Principally a sculptor who employs cast glass and drawing as primary methodologies, Clifford Rainey creates work that is interdisciplinary, incorporating a wide spectrum of materials and processes. A passionate traveler, his work is full of references to the things he has seen and experienced. Celtic mythologies, classical Greek architecture, the blue of the Turkish Aegean, globalization and the iconic American Coca-Cola bottle, the red of the African earth, and the human figure combine with cultural diversity to provide sculptural imagery charged with emotion. 

A British artist whose work has been exhibited internationally for 50 years, Rainey was born in Whitehead, County Antrim, Northern Ireland, in 1948. He began his career as a linen damask designer and worked in William Ewarts linen manufacturers from 1965 to 1968. Later, the artist studied at Hornsey College of Art, the Walthamstow School of Art, where he specialized in bronze casting, and the Royal College of Art, where he received his MA and specialized in glass. Between 1973 and 1975, Rainey ran his own glass studio in London and won a commission for a small sculpture to commemorate the Silver Jubilee of Elizabeth II. In 1984, the artist moved to New York and established additional studios there.

Rainey’s sculptural work has been exhibited internationally including: The Ulster Museum in Northern Ireland, The Victoria and Albert Museum in London, The Kunstmuseum in Dusseldorf, Germany, The Millennium Museum in Beijing, China, and the Museo de Arts Contemporaneo in Monterrey, Mexico. His work is in the permanent collections of numerous museums including:  The Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin, Ireland, The DeYoung Museum, San Francisco, California, The Los Angeles County Museum of Art, The Museum of Art and Design, New York, The Fine Arts Museum of Boston, and The Montreal Museum of Fine Art, Canada. Rainey has realized a number of public art commissions including: The Lime Street Railway Station in Liverpool, England, the Jeddah Monument in Saudi Arabia, and the 911 Communication Center in San Francisco. He is a recipient of the Virginia A. Groot Foundation Award, Chicago, and the 2009 UrbanGlass Outstanding Achievement Award, New York.

Balancing his commitment to studio practice with his desire to share knowledge, Rainey has lectured extensively around the world. He lectured at The Royal College of Art in London for seven years and was a Professor of Fine Art and Chair of the Glass Program at The California College of the Arts from 1991 through 2022. 

On October 8, 2017 at 10:30 p.m., Rainey and his partner, Rachel Riser, were awakened by a neighbor’s frantic telephone call warning them that a wind-driven wildfire had kicked up and was blazing toward their shared Napa, California, residence. They needed to get out immediately. Far more devastating than the destruction of his home and studio was the complete loss of all the artwork on the property — not only two year’s worth of work for an upcoming exhibition, but the artist’s archive of drawings of every project he’d ever done, as well as a collection of his strongest work he was planning to donate to a museum. 

Rainey still resides in Napa, California, and in March 2024 took time away from rebuilding his studio to participate in an artist residency at the Museum of Glass, Tacoma. There, he advanced ideas and processes originally seen in works he lost to fire.