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Dual careerist finds glass blowing, therapy require collaboration

Growing up in Florida Keys influenced Karyne Messina's abstract sea life sculptures on display at Brentwood Arts Exchange

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Photo by Wanda Jackson. Karyne Messina's "abstract sea creatures" line the Brentwood Arts Exchange window.

Photo by Wanda Jackson. Karyne Messina's "abstract sea creatures" line the Brentwood Arts Exchange window.

Published on: Wednesday, October 03, 2012

By Wanda Jackson

Karyne Messina leads an unusual dual existence. She is a formally trained psychologist and psychoanalyst — and a glass and metal artist.

Not afraid to step outside her comfort zone, Messina is the “Front Window Featured Artist” through Nov. 17 at the Brentwood Arts Exchange’s craft store.

Messina’s blown glass sculptures call to visitors across the street and cars whizzing up and down U.S. Route 1 — a  vivid array of whimsical floating sea creatures, ships and dancing figures line the window.

Messina’s affinity for full, circular and swirling shapes of the sea and aquatic life and magnificent colors are inspired by her childhood encounters with the sea.

Before the birth of their daughter and for some time thereafter, Messina’s parents lived on a 90-foot, three-masted schooner in Key Largo, Fla., called the “City of St. Pete.” Growing up, Messina recalls hearing stories that even before she could walk she swam with dolphins at the Theater of the Sea, a marine animal park where her mother worked in Islamorada, Fla. Her father took people on cruises around the Caribbean.

In later years, Messina lived with her family in Marathon, located in the middle Florida Keys. Recalling those memories, Messina said that her “enchantment with the ocean continued” as she spent many hours exploring interesting sea creatures, large and small.

“Tiny sea animals that I found in small crevices, which are part of sharp coral rock formation, always fascinated me,” she said. “As the tides rolled in, they found an ever-so-brief safe haven, only to be whirled back to the sea.

“When I was old enough, I’d often take a small boat to one of the many small islands that are found off larger Keys and snorkeled along the reefs. There I encountered exquisitely colored schools of fish along with various types of coral.”

Messina also spoke about harrowing memories and the lessons those experiences taught her. She recalled “bridges being washed away during hurricanes, leaving the community unable to contact the rest of the world.” But, people came together after the howling winds subsided to help each other repair visible, structural damage, as well as to soothe inner psyches that were fraught with the fear of being washed away by huge waves that covered many houses, Messina said.

As a teenager, Messina was lost in the Bermuda Triangle, but that experience taught her “lessons about coping with the fear of the unknown while trying to remember that hope really does spring eternal.”

“All of these encounters left me with feelings of marvel about the sea along with a great deal of respect for its creatures as well as its power and might,” she said.

Both sides of her life are more alike than not, said Messina. Rather than transition from one to another, she is combining what she has learned in formal training and her work with people to her work with metal and glass.

Messina studies with established artist David D’Orio at DC Glassworks in Edmonston.

“The interplay between artist and assistant working with hot glass requires a collaboration that leads to the creation of something new and unique,” she said. “The process can be dangerous and requires concentration, tenacity and focus in order to produce the desired effect. There are pitfalls along the way — glass often breaks and the process must be started again to achieve the intended outcome.”

It’s the same when working with people in therapy, according to Messina.

“In my work, there is collaboration between two people to achieve what the patient wants to accomplish,” she said. “There are disappointments along the way, but in sticking to the task, most often gains are made; sometimes a small shift later leads to a major change, and sometimes the outcome is a life-altering experience.”

This process, as in glass blowing, cannot be done as effectively alone, according to Messina.

“It is the interaction between two people that creates something new and often quite beautiful on its own right, whether it is a unique piece of glass or a newly acquired and more optimal way of navigating the world,” she said.

Messina’s glass works have been exhibited at DC Glassworks, Reagan National Airport, the month-long Artomatic festival in Crystal City, Lustine Gallery in Hyattsville, and at the Artistry and Psychoanalysis Exhibit at the famed Waldorf Astoria in New York City.

Brentwood Arts Exchange, located on the first floor of the Gateway Arts Center at 3901 Rhode Island Avenue in Brentwood, is open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. For additional information, email or call 301-277-2863 or TTY 301-446-6802.

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