Multimedia sculptor Benton Jones of Brewster sees life as malleable and transformative, much like his art process. Jones’s glass sculptures, like clusters of light, seem to change before your eyes, pulsing with energy in a happy marriage of color and form.
A graduate of Carnegie Mellon University’s College of Fine Arts, Jones says he learned the real craft of sculpting at the Johnson Atelier Technical Institute of Sculpture in Trenton, New Jersey. Of the experience, in which he studied alongside sculptors such as Claes Oldenburg and George Segal, Jones simply says, “It was quite a steep learning curve.” Today he operates three kilns at Millstone Gallery in Brewster, his workspace and sculpture gallery, attracting worldwide collectors that include the musician Eric Clapton.
One of the kilns represents the genesis of Jones’s glasswork. He was working only with metal when his mentor, the late Donald Beaulieu, left Jones his glass-fusing kiln and instructional books. Beaulieu, in fact, helped Jones complete his first large commission, a sculpture of two winged lions holding a clock, which stood at South and Main Streets in Hyannis for a decade.
Much of Jones’s work is themed around water, and there is almost always an environmental message. The brilliant ice-like sculptures in his Melting Hemispheres Series, such as Receding Glacier, are based on reclaimed glass flotation spheres that were used in climate change research at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. The series is a comment on the world’s “very shortsighted views on climate change,” Jones says. “”I have great passion and love for nature, maybe less for the people who have been ruining it.” He also creates monuments to the local culture, such as Cape Cod Basket, a 17-inch-diameter glass vessel that is interwoven with copper and brass strips. “It’s reinventing the Nantucket basket in a modern way,” Jones says.
Jones is teaching sculpture this summer in Prague, through North Carolina State University, traveling there with his Czech-born wife, Jana Jones, and their five-year-old son, Elliot. “The Czech Republic is the predominant glass-casting country in the world and the predominant country working on a monumental scale,” says Jones, sounding dazzled by the upcoming opportunity. “All the stars have aligned.”