Tad Bradley: The Glassman of Bozeman

Tad Bradley’s studio is in an industrial area across the tracks from Bozeman, Montana’s, hip historic downtown center. Both Bradley’s workspace and his art glass creations embody that old expression “Things are not always what they seem.”

Trained as an architect, Bradley interned at commercial and residential firms back East early in his career. But when he realized the limitations of his understanding of how things are put together—buildings, furniture, geology; the world, really—he left architecture to explore a variety of apprentice positions that included blacksmith, steel fabricator and glass maker.

Bradley stands with his sculptural installation on the campus of Montana State University.

Increasingly, Bradley became fascinated by glass as a medium of contradiction—an element at once fragile and strong, liquid then solid, hot then cold. In 2010 he decided to pursue his art in earnest. “Glass is the most dynamic and challenging material I’ve ever interacted with,” he says. “It’s hard to work with, but it can be anything.”

Bradley’s series “Pause,” with layers of fused glass, was the artist’s response to an ultrasound in his leg, exploring what it means “to be human in glass.”​

His studio belies its gritty neighborhood with a broad display of sculptural works, specialized kilns and sanders, along with room for the classes Bradley teaches. When he isn’t in his studio he shares his knowledge of design fundamentals, fused glass, and his special area of expertise, the psychological effects of space—at Montana State University’s School of Architecture.

Melding the structural precision of architecture with the fluid creativity of fused glass, Bradley considers scale in this triptych of vertical steel and glass that measure to his exact height.

Bradley’s architectural glass installations merge both his artistic and psychological interests. In a recent commission he reimagined a window. Unlike the clear pane of most windows, Bradley fabricated a buttercup-colored sheet of glass that was installed in a corridor of the client’s house. The result is a well of filtered daylight that adds motion to the space as the sun moves across the sky and reflects a yellow-tinged rectangle across the opposing wall.

Kiln-formed custom glass tiles were inspired by Sesame Street’s skit “Which of these is not like the others?”  

At a glance, Bradley’s array of art glass may simply resemble bubble gum from a penny candy shop, but ask Bradley the question “What inspired this piece?” and his answer is surprisingly complex. What may look like flecks of waxy crayon shavings floating in glycerin is really a tribute to the Human Genome Project. And layers of fused glass that resemble
Allsorts licorice are really the artist’s response to an ultrasound of the veins in his leg.

“I want to explore what it means to be human in glass,” he explains, “from the cellular level to the physical structure, showing things in repetition rather than solitary form.”

A detail from the artist’s series entitled “Genome Study.” 

The buttercup-colored cantilevered glass panels are part of an architectural series in the stairway of a home in Montana. 

Tad Bradley will be hosting a grand opening of his studio on Friday, May 12th 4pm – 8pm. A glassblowing demonstration will be ongoing from visiting artist John Krizan.

Bradley’s work will be feature in an exhibition at the Emerson Cultural Center in Bozeman, Sept. 8th through Nov. 26th.The work is a study of human biology in glass and will explore DNA, cell and cell division, nerve cell communication, visual phenomena, auditory patterns, aging and death, the five senses we understand the world through.

This summer , Bradley will be designing and fabricating another [5th] permanent installation for the Montana State University campus and is part of the University’s Presidents Fine Art Series. This lecture/panel discussion is with four separate artists invited to develop and install unique artistic installations within the new parking structure in the middle of campus. Bradley’s design will begin to visually explain the geographic diversity within Montana. Similar to a timeline displaying time I will create an installation that will be a scaled representation of various geographies of the state.


Categories: Artists & Artisans