Heather Joy Puskarich: “My Deviant Muse: Photographic Images in Glass”

March 16, 2010

Come see My Deviant Muse: Photographic Images in Glass at the Melwood Gallery! The opening reception will be on Friday, March 19th from 6:00 to 9:00 pm. The exhibit runs until April 18th. It is free and open to the public.

Glass is an element in many different symbol systems, often carrying different weight for different people. For Heather Joy Puskarich, whose work “My Deviant Muse: Photographic images in Glass” is currently on display at the Melwood Gallery, the medium of glass holds a variety of meanings. “Glass is an amalgamous solid. It changes from solid to liquid, and often doesn’t stay in one form, “ she says. “That is what my personality is like.” Glass is also “inherently beautiful,” and has “historical symbolism,” and can thus represent women.

Puskarich glass

Women are a central theme of My Deviant Muse, as most of the images consist of women, many complete with accessorizing objects such as high heels and make-up. Many of the images are about “costuming, making yourself someone else for others.” “We want everyone to see someone else,” says Heather Joy, “We don’t want them to see what we are about.” One piece in particular shows this theme clearly. Heather Joy has put images of a woman accessorizing onto a series of hand mirrors. As you walk up to the image, you see not only the woman in glass, but also an image of yourself.

The muse for “My deviant Muse” is the artist herself. “Muse is me. Deviant is myself,” she says. All the female images are actually of Heather Joy; she may be in a wig, or putting on make-up, or lying with her back toward the viewer. “It is a schizophrenic show,” she says, referring to the variety of emotions represented, as well as the pieces that are made from smaller cuttings. Avalon, for example, consists of 48 squares, each one made and processed separately. The picture they form is of Heather Joy on a bed in a seedy hotel, lying with her back to the viewer, feet dirty. Of this piece Heather Joy says, “I’m broken. Putting me back together is quite a feat. It’s exhausting.” Yet there is one pink square in the upper left, Heather Joy’s favorite of the 48 squares, that is “hopeful all will come together.”


“Blue Girl” was the first piece of the series and inspired the others. It is a toned print, almost entirely blue, done on clear glass, segmented, purposely uneven, depicting a woman’s hips in lace, with a poem inlaid. After making this piece, Heather Joy asked herself, “Why was she significant?” She thought about what Blue Girl meant to her, and began making more images involving women poets. The series progressed from there, with mutations of style, technique and theme.

Blue Girl

A more light-hearted work is entitled “Saucy,” a photographic image of a woman’s legs sporting red high heels, poking out of an antique bathtub. This is the tub from her house, and the red shoes she wears when she wants to feel good. “It’s kind of happy, 40’s looking and ambiguous. The legs remind me of my mom’s legs. It takes me back to her,” says Heather Joy. The piece turned out great in glass, the tub looks three dimensional, and the faucet appears to pop out of the image.


One of her pieces, however, is not about costuming, and she feels it is the deepest of the lot, as well as the most personal. “Gypsy” features a woman’s face covered partially by hair, showing signs of anguish. The piece is made with glass and rust, so the piece perpetually degrades, a technique created by, and unique to, Heather Joy.


There are a variety of techniques for getting photographic images onto glass, and many of these techniques she teaches at the Pittsburgh Glass Center. They include sandblasting, decals, high fire paints, Dremel, or using an angle grinder to blast steel onto glass. Many of her pieces utilize as many as four of these methods. The process to create any piece is long; it can take up to two weeks to complete a project. Glass also has a certain drawback: it is fragile. Gypsy took four times to perfect, and many pieces have broken while in the making.

Heather Joy describes her aesthetic as “dreamy.” She likes translucency, light, the combination of steel and glass. Images she enjoys working with include bridges, birds, trees, woman’s faces and figures, and words. She especially loves the aesthetics of handwriting, and has inlaid handwritten poems into some of her works.

Be sure to visit the exhibit at the Melwood Gallery. It is open until April 18th. The opening reception will be on Friday, March 19th from 6:00 to 9:00 pm. The exhibit is free and open to the public.



  1. Wonderful, a great success in combining imagery and glass!

  2. Love the new work. I wish I knew the scale. I imagine the wall installation bigger than life. Beautiful!

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