AMERICAN artists are making glass of spectacular colors and shapes--some so thin and fragile it looks more like paper. Most is sculptural, not functional. The work of more than 65 American glass artists will be shown starting Saturday at the Walters Arts Gallery, 600 N. Charles St., Baltimore.

The exhibit will run through July 15. It is a break from the Walters' usual exhibits, which tend to focus on its private collections. Jonathan D. Rogers of the gallery's education division said the gallery is attempting to widen its audience. "Up until recently we've relied on our private collection, which although considerable, does not include the contemporary work of today's artist," he said. "The collection mushroomed while father and son, William and Henry Walters were alive. But after Henry's death in 1931, the acquisitions slowed down. We hope that this showing of new work will serve as a precedent for future shows." The museum is open Monday, 1-5 p.m.; Tuesday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-5 p.m.; Sunday, 2-5 p.m.

Included in the show is an opaqueSee GLASS, Page 2, Col. 1 New American Glass ---- "Clear Pool" by Northern Virginia artists Margie Jervis and Susie Krasnican; photo from the artists. GLASS, From Page 1 glass sculpture entitled "Clear Pool" by Northern Virginia artists Margie Jervis and Susie Krasnican. The sparkly, sky-blue sides rise unevenly around the sunk-in, cavernous center where the colors change from blue to white with blue, then gray and eventually black. A similar piece using the same techniques was bought by the Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum, Wausau, Wisc.

Jervis explained how the sculptures were made. "We start out with a symmetrical clear glass bowl about 1 1/2-inch thick, made for us by a glass blower. Then we trim, carve and shape the bowl by sandblasting. Usually sandblasting is used to just frost the surface, but we use it to completely alter the bowl shape. We control the cutting by using a rubber masking around areas we want to protect and then erode away the glass we don't want."

Jervis and Krasnican paint enamel colors on the glass after all the carving is completed. The pieces are then fired in the kiln.

Jervis and Krasnican's work runs between $500 and $2,500. Their pieces can be seen regularly at New York City's Heller Gallery, where a show of their latest work begins in June. The Renwick Gallery recently bought one of their works for its permanent collection.

Jervis, 25, and Krasnican, 28, met at the Pilchuck Glass School founded by Dale Chihuly. They collaborated on several works while studying with the master himself. They received a National Endowment Craftsmen Fellowship Grant in 1980.

The contemporary glass show also includes well-known glass artists Chihuly, Jon Kuhn and Thomas Patti. The colors in Kuhn's oblong glass sculpture almost leap out at you. Installed on a black base, the glass is alternately turquoise, deep purple and iridescent orange. Kuhn works in Staunton, Va.

Chihuly's untitled work consists of four glass bowl forms, placed in a larger bowl/tray, all of which are a bit distorted, as if the sides were pulled out like taffy. The delicate glass is a translucent pink with dark pink stripes along the rims of each bowl.

Patti's "Solar Grey Riser" has a sleek, hi-tech look. The vertical piece is colored in shades of grey and looks like a launching pad, with a rocket about to burst forth.

Another well-known artist, Marvin Lipofsky--often called the father of the new glass movement--has an interesting, almost grotesque, piece on exhibit. Entitled "Fragments Jugoslvija Stakla," the delicate sculpture is made of gold, green and clear glass that looks like a broken skull with a neck attached.

One especially attractive display case features Valerie Arber's "Insomnia" and David Schwarz's "Z Axis 6." Arber's circular plate shape has a black background depicting night--if we are to judge from the title. Its gold rim and iridescent gold helter-skelter design are "drawn" onto the glass by sandblasting.

Schwarz's deep purple bowl has white, pink and plum squares set against a black background. The bowl doesn't sit flat; it tips forward, similar to the Chihuly bowls.