Alumna Lily Glass showcases art in campus gallery

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Lily Zopfi Glass graduated from Union in December 2008. She is married to Union alumnus, Ben Glass, who writes for Disney. Both are living in Los Angeles, California.

Lee Benson, professor of art and department chair, had the opportunity to know Glass personally while she was a student at Union.

“Lily is an entrepreneur at heart,” Benson said. “She’s an exceptional photographer. She started a magazine which is really beautiful; it’s a work of art in and of itself.”

Benson said Glass uses photography to highlight her experiences in travel through different areas of the country, food and people she meets.

Benson said momentary beauty becomes something that one has to really commit to, to see the glimpses of beauty among the business of life, especially life in a big city. That’s what Glass’ show is about: stopping to find the momentary glimpses of beauty but also using film and developing techniques that move understanding of how beauty is perceived, Benson said.

Q: What was your specific major at Union?
A: I was an art major with a ceramics emphasis and photography secondary emphasis.
Q: Did you end up where you first expected you’d be with your career?
A: I’ve never really had one idealistic career goal. Unless you count “being creative” as a career goal. Then yes, in that sense, which feels really great. I know it’s a rarity to do what you love and actually get paid for it. (And believe me there have been a slew of odd jobs to supplement leading up to this point.) As my interests and priorities evolve, so does my creative work and the way that fleshes out.
Q: What do you love most about art/photography?
A: I think it’s beautiful the way that it helps people feel. Slows them down, brings them back to a moment in time. Even if the image isn’t from their direct experience, it can provide a reference point for the viewer and stir up an emotion.
Q: What is most challenging to you?
A: Keeping things fresh. It’s easy to settle into a rut with your creative work and do things “x,y,z” way because you can guarantee the outcome. But the really good stuff comes when you’re constantly learning, implementing new techniques and giving yourself the freedom to experiment.
Q: Where do you get your inspiration for your work?
A: When it comes to portraiture, I try to capture people as their most genuine selves. So each subject becomes my inspiration as I seek to make them comfortable in front of the lens. Otherwise I’m typically drawn to photograph something because of the light or texture or color. California is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been so I feel fortunate to have endless inspiration out our front door. If I’m feeling dry, I try not to go online because then I just end up replicating what I see rather than pushing myself to create something more unique.
Q: What does your art mean to you?
A: During a trip to Italy a few years ago, my husband and I attended mass at the Florence Cathedral. Before the service the kindly old priest shook our hands and asked where we were from and what I did. I told him I was a photographer and he nodded saying “love of Jesu, love of people.” Here in Los Angeles, a city full of wildly creative people, our measurement of success is constantly vacillating, and it’s so easy to become discouraged. But when I can remember the priest’s exhortation—if I can make good work and love the people that the work leads me to—I have a much healthier perspective of my art.
Q: What message do you hope to portray through your art?
A: That we are surrounded by beauty. Beauty points to the eternal. I believe that the consumption of beauty is the recognition of some good.
Q: You have a unique focus in your photography. Could you maybe talk about that a little bit? Perhaps explain how (or why) you chose the focus of your pictures in that way. 
A: I’m interested in work that captures genuine moments or simple beauty. Simple meaning raw and often not ornate. A large part of my time as a photographer is spent waiting. My control over the situation or subject varies from shoot to shoot but typically I ready my settings and choose the light and try to foresee an action or give some direction and then… just wait for the wind to blow or a child to giggle. It’s in this time of waiting that I truly observe, when I become fully aware. I’m intrigued by the everyday in part because I personally need to be reminded to have a posture of gratitude for all that surrounds me. And gratefulness is often a byproduct of being present, of being mindful. These feel like the most important images I can be making right now. I love shooting with film because there’s no instant affirmation that you got everything right. There’s room for spontaneity and mistakes and very lovely accidents. There is grain and grit and light leaks and soft focus—these characteristics ground the images in reality and I hope, remind the viewer of the beauty that also surrounds them every day.
Q: What does it mean to you to have your art displayed in the gallery at Union?
A: Being invited to share work at Union was such a sweet surprise. My husband and I often discuss our time at Union and the professors that shaped our respective creative pursuits and feel so fortunate to have received such a quality education in the arts. I don’t think I had fully realized how much time had passed until I walked back into the gallery. It was so refreshing to be there with a new perspective and new priorities. I had forgotten about the simultaneous fear and anticipation of the unknown after graduation. It’s exhilarating and overwhelming. But if you can keep your head down and focus on making good work, things seem to come together.
Lily Glass art on display in the gallery at Union is for sale. Items already sold are marked with a red dot.
If you are interested in seeing more of her art, visit her webpage to see her portfolio.