Trail of Tears glass exhibit

Darren Goodman’s “Trail of Tears” Glass Exhibit Invites Visitor to Explore Deeper

Trail of Tears glass exhibit

If you have not been to the “Trail of Tears” glass exhibit at the Mansfield Art Center, it is a deeply moving experience that you will not want to miss. The show runs through April 3, 2022. Artist Darren Goodman uses the medium of glass to explore man’s relationship with the natural world. He also explores hard-hitting topics and explores the sorrows and joys that have shaped the world we live in today.

About the Artist

To call Darren Goodman a master of his craft would be an understatement. He was born in Maineville, Ohio, and was first introduced to the world of glass blowing while attending college at Bowling Green State University. He later apprenticed under glass master Leon Applebaum in Corning, New York. The artist also studied under master glass artists that include Dante Marioni, Lino Tagliapietra, and Davide Salvadore.

In 2005, Goodman established his own glass studio in Waynesville, Ohio. From there, he would go on to create glass installations in Paris, Hawaii, Ohio, and throughout national parks in the southwestern United States. His installations include a permanent piece of artwork in Children’s Hospital Cincinnati, Ohio, and exhibitions that include the Toledo Art Museum, Wheaton Arts Museum of American Glass, Cincinnati Art Museum, Carnegie Museum of the Arts, and Hawaii Museum of Contemporary Art.

One of Goodman’s greatest pleasures and talents is his ability to share the world of glass blowing with others. He is a showman and brings his Glass Experience to children and adults of all ages. The current exhibit at the Mansfield Art Center is his biggest yet and includes hundreds of “tears” made from glass, some of which are as much as eight feet in length. Each of the pieces is unique and adds its own character to the installation.

The Experience

Now, let’s take a walk through the exhibit. Please note that these are my own impressions and do not necessarily reflect the intentions of the artist. This exhibition touches the soul of everyone who experiences it.

The first thing that greets you as you approach the entranceway is a crosscut saw with tears hanging from it. It features the words “Trail of Tears” written in a way that is reminiscent of a time in American history that the history books have tried to forget. The display sets the tone. This exhibit is not all about pretty glass, and it invites you to dig deeper as you explore the space.


Next, you walk into the main lobby of the Art Center where an elegant grand piano greets you. The first thing that draws your eyes is two organic glass shapes that dance on top of the piano. Goodman calls these pieces “Fantasias.”

To your right, you see a magnificent display of glass bottles in reds, another harbinger of things to come. A second set of Fantasias dance on top of a display. These pieces reminded me of the elegant mating dance of swans. This space also includes a large-scale piece with a divided canvas in black and white. Tears are mounted to create a dimensional effect on the canvas.

You cannot help but notice the contrasts in form, color, and scale throughout the space. The space is minimalist, with attention to the individual pieces and the expansiveness of the space. This space serves as a prelude to the remainder of the exhibit.

Tools of Creation and Destruction

Tools of Creation and Destruction
Tools of Creation and Destruction

As you reach the first landing of the grand staircase, the artist gives you another clue to the overarching theme of the exhibit. This space is titled, “Tools of Creation and Destruction.” This exhibit features primitive tools, as might have been used by the early settlers. It includes a scythe, guitar, hand well pump, stove, rustic chair, and shovel.

Small glass tears drip onto an animal skull, encasing it in glass on a bed of sand, reminding us that what is creation for some means destruction for others. The hand implements are used to harvest the grain to create bread, but it also means death for the wheat. This contrast is an example of the dichotomy that Goodman creates throughout the exhibit.

The Main Exhibit

Next, you ascend the staircase to the main exhibit. I stayed for some time at the exhibit, and almost everyone let out a “WOW!” as soon as they reached the top of the stairs. Most stood in silence taking it in, and I have to admit, I did, too. The hundreds of tears catch the light and create an awe-inspiring display.

First Impressions Trail of Tears
First Impressions

The hundreds of tears are suspended from the ceiling and tree branches, forming a curtain of glass. Each one is different, and they are arranged according to the visible light spectrum from warm to cool. The artist used strategically-placed chairs and invites you to sit and reflect. One wall of the exhibit includes a hand saw that has been painted golden and is dripping with red tears that look like blood, a stark reminder of the sacrifices that often accompany creation.

As I sat with the exhibit, I was struck at how the artist embodied the connection between the natural world and man’s creation. The bottom of the exhibit has a bed of sand, which for practical reasons helps pad the tears if one should fall, but you cannot help but think about how sand is the raw material of glass. Man transforms it by fire and creates useful items and ones that add beauty to our world. When the glass breaks, it will eventually be ground away to become a part of the sand once again.

Glass butterfly breaking free
Glass butterfly breaking free

I was reminded of the many different tears that are part of the human experience. We cry tears of sadness, tears of grief, tears of relief, tears of happiness, and tears of joy. Each one is different and shapes who we are as individuals. Viewing the group of glass tears as a collective reminds us that each of our individual stories is part of the bigger picture of the course of human history. When viewed from up close, you can pick out the individual details in each glass tear, but when viewed from a distance, each one becomes part of the collective experience.

The artist added over 100 glass butterflies to the display. You will find them tucked into surprising places throughout the space. To me, they seem to represent hope for the future and transformation. You even find some glass butterflies breaking free from their glass tears. Standing in this space is a transformative experience.

Broken Tears

Broken tears

Goodman used broken tears to create pieces that represent imperialism, the Suffrage movement, and Jim Crow Laws. They are beautiful and catch the light, almost making you forget the tears of oppression that have shaped this nation. They are a part of the glass mosaic that we are today.

An Uplifting Message of Hope and Optimism

As you move through the space, you find a delightful scene that features Fantasia in a whimsical woodland setting. They blend into the natural world, almost as if they are a part of the setting and have been for some time.

Goodman's Fantasy World of Glass
Goodman’s Fantasy World of Glass

Pieces of sawn wood accompany them. In this piece, Goodman used the contrast of summer and winter. The display contains stones that will become sand over time, eventually becoming beautiful organic glass shapes. This area of the display is whimsical and ends on an uplifting note.

As you complete the circle, the artist presents pictures of his tears in places around the world, including some of the most striking symbols of peace for humankind. Before descending the stairs, the artist gives you insight into how he takes his glassblowing on the road.

Final Thoughts

I just want to end by saying that if you have not experienced this exhibit yet, you need to make a point to see it before it is gone. The glass is beautiful, yes, but it also invites you to dig deeper and explore your own place in human history. I came away with an overarching feeling of hope and optimism. We stand at the cusp of a moment that is set to define how future generations will record our deeds. It is up to us to break free and create something beautiful together.

Have you experienced this exhibit? How did it make you feel, and what impressions did it invoke?

You can find more information about the display and how to plan your trip here.

Here are a few more highlights of my trip.

I also had a chance to visit the glass show when a class was in progress. I HAVE to try this!