Experimental Interpretation of Stained Glass

Continued research work which began with the I Promise I’m a Good’n body of work.

For the past nine months, I have been developing an iterative practice centered around creating and presenting large-scale impressions of stained glass windows. I use media such as graphite, builder’s paper, canvas, and cyanotypes alongside custom fabricated ladder equipment in order to capture the likenesses of the silver stained glass and leaded metal-work which compose the windows of the church where my studio is currently situated. My goal is to approach religious institutions and bring the sacred imagery and geometries of the stained glass panes down from their lofty heights and install them in ways that allow the public to interact directly with them in ways that would normally be forbidden.

Graphite and primer on builder’s paper

Graphite on cotton canvas

Cyanotype on fabric

As a research chemist by trade, I interpolate my analytical laboratory tendencies into this practice through it’s highly iterative nature. I experiment and develop my process over time as trials are conducted and results are interpreted to inform future steps. Along with an experimental approach to creating, the physical act of maneuvering through such large-scale work requires me to overcome my fears – heights, falling, being overwhelmed by my work, failing a task I set myself.

Thresholding, The Great Oxidizer

Oxidation and reduction are the essential pushers and movers behind all living matter. Through this thermodynamic framework, we conjure understanding of the ways in which inanimate matter reacts with energy and its surroundings. On an molecular level, the simple transfer of electrons between species is a generative process which is responsible for processes which range from the microbiological to the galactic in scale. Oxidation ages our cells and transfers nutrition in our body – our breath alone brings it on. Oxidation sustains fires, allows for explosions.  At the risk of anthropomorphizing, oxidation seeks through shifting around energy to reduce all matter to a state of lower energy. Oxidation brings the energy of our world to a more stable, lower state. Without any other agency, all matter may eventually fall victim to oxidation down to it’s basest forms.

In the Christian myth, Christ is often referred to as the Light. The Light, as the subject of the sacred images on the stained glass panes through which the cyanotype was exposed, and as the source of ultraviolet radiation responsible for the creation of the image, fades with time. Framed in an ornate, Ecclesiastical frame with carpet inlay and gold leaf trim, the cyanotype is vulnerable to the light, and will undergo reduction to pure white over time. The anonymous disciple in the image is folded over in grief. There is a hopeful parallel here in oxidation. If all things are to be leveled across the universe with time and oxidation, eventually a day will come when the valleys of grief and memory are leveled to absolute sea level. The last knot of energy comes undone, and all matter inanimate and alive will rest in permanent sleep.

 In taking cameraless photographs which use the windows as subject and lens simultaneously, the christian imagery is appropriated into a media which can be removed from the lofty heights and contexts of the original stained glass panes. Ecclesiastical stained glass windows are not designed to be seen through, they are designed to control and manipulate light for the purpose of entrancing viewers within. With these three photos displayed as an unframed triptych, the image of the windows captured on the paper transforms the gallery wall into a nullified window itself. With continued exposure to light over the course of months, the cyanotypes will fade to pure white. Here, the slow fading of the cyanotypes over time mirrors the process of forgetting, and will produce a pure white window devoid of the original stained glass images which manipulated the light for the photographs. 

Symphony of Forgetting