Drawn to the material for aesthetic or symbolic reasons, many artists have incorporated glass or dinnerware into their work. Julian Schnabel is probably the most prominent artist who has incorporated dinnerware into his practice. He created his famous “plate paintings” in the 1970s/80s and they became some of his best-known work. Judy Chicago’s The Dinner Party is another famous instance, but with a feminist theme. Chicago depicted place settings for 39 mythical and historical well-known women. Each setting features symbols relating to a specific woman’s accomplishments. Josiah McElheny creates finely crafted, handmade glass objects that he uses to make museological displays depicting one’s attempts to learn about historical peoples from their household possessions and objects. Molly Hatch is an artist and designer who grew up on a dairy farm in Vermont. She studied ceramics alongside painting, drawing and printmaking and incorporates all of them into her work. Jason Kraus uses glasses and flatware to generate reiterations of the same setup. For instance, for his installation at Redling Fine Art Kraus served a nearly identical meal for the first seven nights of his exhibition. After the meal he would clean the dishes and stack them inside a plywood cabinet, creating remnants of an ephemeral performance. Esther Horchner is an illustrator whose clever teacups depict bathing figures. Cheryl Pope incorporates dinnerware and other objects in unexpected ways. Her Balancing Stacks, for instance, was a performance where a woman stacked dishes on a precariously balanced table. Like the feminization of a ritual like clearing or setting the table, Pope uses her stacks as a symbol for something destined to collapse.
Each of these artists finds symbolic or artistic value in the typically utilitarian objects. Using these almost universally recognizable items for art and performance enables a kind of storytelling or metaphor that is unique to each artist.