Nebraska lost one of its finest artists and craftsmen on New Year's Eve with the passing of glass artist Kenny Walton. He was 72.
Walton, an Ohio native who moved to Nebraska in 1985 with his wife, printmaker Karen Kunc, created exquisite glass-ball paperweights and square glass vessels covered with varied, beautiful surface decorations that combined a love of color with observations of nature.
Working up to 18 hours a day in his studio near Avoca, Walton would drink up to a gallon of water an hour to maintain his fluid level as he manipulated the red-hot glass pulled from furnaces with temperatures of more than 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit.
“When I go to bed at night, I'm really looking forward to working the next day,” the affable, down-to-earth Walton once told the Journal Star. “I just feel really lucky to be able to do something I enjoy doing, and in theory, I’ll make a living at it.”
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Walton, who grew up on an Ohio truck farm, was drafted and served in the U.S. Army in Vietnam in 1967 and 1968, then used his GI benefits to enroll at Ohio State University. There, he took an art class in ceramics to fill out his schedule.
“I kind of fell in love with it,” he said. “From that point on, that’s all I took for the next year and a half.”
Working in glass in the beginnings of the Studio Glass Movement, Walton taught glass and blew glass at Ohio art centers and colleges and worked with developmentally disabled adults for 10 years before moving to Nebraska, building his studio and developing his art business.
From 1990 to 2007, Walton exhibited his glass in top-level juried arts and craft fairs around the country where he won many awards. His work was shown in solo exhibitions in Lincoln, Ohio and Nagoya, Japan; included in the prestigious New Glass Review at the Corning Museum of Glass in 1985; and was part of group exhibitions around the country and in China.
In the last decade, Walton, who struggled with Crohn’s disease, primarily worked on the couple’s farm near Avoca. He battled liver cancer for the final months of his life.
A memorial service and exhibition of Walton’s blown glass will be held in April at Constellation Studios.
Reach the writer at 402-473-7244 or email@example.com. On Twitter @KentWolgamott