From beakers to broken glass, local artist Lin McJunkin has done it all. As a former science educator, McJunkin fuses her passion for climate change awareness with glass art to make one-of-a-kind creations.
McJunkin’s interest in glasswork began 30 years ago when she started working on small ceramics projects. “Maybe it’s something about using fire to transform a rather ugly dried clay or chunky glass object into a beautiful piece of art that attracts us,” she says. Over time, she switched from mainly using clay to using glass because she feels glass has greater narrative potential. “I wanted to explore certain questions with my work, not only make pretty things.”
With studios in California, Oregon, and Washington,McJunkin has left her mark all over the West Coast. She says her workspace is often irrelevant because she spends as much time trying to get her work out into the community as she does at her workbench.
McJunkin primarily works in three different styles—“pate de verre,” a creation and molding of glass paste; “kiln-carving,” an embossing method; and “glass casting” into metal cut-outs—often conducting them in her own style.“I never know where inspiration is going to come from or how long it will take to filter from my brain,through my heart, and into my hands, whether in materials, process, or content,” she says.
Following decades of creations, McJunkin has made pieces that will stand the test of time. In 2018, she collaborated with artists Milo White and Jay Bowen to create “Valley of Our Spirits,” a Native-American inspired sculpture in downtown Mount Vernon that towers more than 20 feet tall. McJunkin is particularly proud of the totem pole, which tells the stories of the inhabitants along the Skagit River.
Although McJunkin traded in her classroom for a studio long ago, her time as a science educator continues to shape her work. Her interest in climate change, or as she coins it “climate weirding,” stems from a grant that aimed to design a climate change curriculum for middle schoolers.
Once she started teaching about climate change, her interest in the subject skyrocketed. As she read more and more about the effects of fossil fuels, she became increasingly inspired to take action. “Art can evoke an emotional reaction that, when added to the intellectual stimulation of scientific facts, can inspire people to make changes,” she says.
This goal fuels her creative process. When she starts on a project, she turns on NPR and reflects until the world’s political and environmental issues irritate her enough to make something both beautiful and meaningful.
McJunkin says she looks forward to the future of her work, particularly the opportunities to collaborate with other artists and scientists. She continues to participate in the Museum of Northwest Art’s biennial “Surge” exhibit, which features works about local climate change issues. She also has two public projects lined up for California and Olympia with her metal partner Milo White.
“It’s not enough to leave people informed but paralyzed by their overwhelming fears [regarding climate change],” she says. “Action is the antidote to depression.”
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