In the United States, Howard Ben Tré ranks as the inventor of large-scale mould-melted glass sculpture. Stanislav Libenský and Jaroslava Brychtová are his only rivals in Europe. His work recalls that of Constantin Brancusi and Isamu Noguchi, and he is frequently mentioned in the same breath as those sculptors. Consequently, pieces by him soon entered the collections of major international museums, helping indirectly to overcome the distinction still sometimes made between fine art and glass art. Howard Ben Tré was born in New York in 1949. After studying under Dale Chihuly at the Rhode Island School of Design, where he received an MFA in 1980, he stayed to live and work in Providence. Unable to realize his ideas at the furnace, he took to mould-melting, an essentially industrial process. He began employing the technique in ever more sophisticated ways, adapting it to his artistic requirements and combining glass with other materials, such as stone, iron and gold-leaf. These he used as elements to help define form or for interior shapes, which shone through the glass mysteriously. His first works took the form of columns, lingams and urns inspired by his study of Antique and medieval architecture. They resemble remains of temples, churches or tombs and exude an aura of solemnity. Howard Ben Tré subsequently turned from architecture to landscape, prompted by the notion that the earth is the ultimate source of all life. In his groups of figures and series of Primary Vessels, he returned to the relationship between interior and exterior forms, to the enclosure of shapes that are made to appear almost sacred in a way that is only possible with transparent or semi-opaque glass. The Wrapped Forms, recalling human figures, have been followed by the more abstract Bearing Figures, with shapes nestling in hollows as fertility symbols. Many of these sculptures have been installed in public buildings, squares and gardens, often surrounded by fountains.
Howard Ben Tré is a highly respected artist and has received numerous prestigious awards including three National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships, the 1987 Rakow Commission from the Corning Museum of Glass, the 2005 Artist Award of Distinction from the National Council of Art Administrators and the 2006 Aileen Osborn Webb Award. His work has been exhibited all over the world and is featured in more than 95 museums and public collections, including Centro Cultural de Arte Contemporaneo in Mexico City, Mexico, Corning Museum of Glass in Corning, New York, Los Angeles County Museum of Art in Los Angeles, California, Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, New York, Musée des Beaux-Arts in Nice, France, National Museum of Modern Art in Kyoto, Japan and Smithsonian American Art Museum and the Renwick Gallery in Washington, D.C.