The work of Judith Schaechter, American, born 1961
at the Philadelphia Art Alliance in 2015.
These stunning works – stained glass which has been cut, sandblasted, engraved, painted and fired – are some of the finest works of artisanal art which I have seen.
They contain many images: realistic; mythic; floral; faunal; abstract; symbolic. It is a very rich palette.
The three in these three separate works, Prometheus, Noah, Mary Magdalene, 2011, squeezed into these slits, like the openings in castle walls, are not awake.
Each image raises complementary images in your mind:
churches, altars, the keep of massive stone castles, summer fields, gardens, night skies in deep country, sunsets, Venice, Cologne, Merlin, pantomime, satin, velvet, dwarves, unicorns, lust, longing, the freedom of birds, the constraints of our lives….
On and on.
Harpy, 2013, and details
Detail of Birds, 2011, from the Icarus suite
Our Ladies, 2012, and details
These images raise also stories and associations with people.
Acedia, 2013, and details (acedia = spiritual or mental sloth or apathy)
You are here in a world you do not completely recognize. If you do, you tell yourself that you are not seeing straight.
The Battle of Carnival and Lent, 2011, and details
There is a large dissonance between the rich color and light and dense composition and the threat and dread and strangeness rising off the glass to envelop you from many of the images.
The Minotaur, 2009, and details
Three-tiered Cosmos, 2105, and details
An Invocation, 2009, and details
There is a second fracture within the images.
Cowering figures, passive bodies, crones, crowds massed in egotistic self-presentation, a young woman fallen off a horse:
these are depicted in fields of flowers, floating above seas filled with wondrous fish, and under canopies of stars and planets. The image is often bordered by eye-catching splashes, stars, bubbles, streaks, all brightly colored.
(I don’t have the name or date).
The girl has fallen off the horse. A rich and beautiful natural environment. A predator animal is watching on the left.
But she: her right hand is clenched in tension but her left is open in either supplication or openness or both; She is part prostate. But her head is lifted to the sun; she is dreaming; and there is a slight smile about her mouth. Our lives.
From the Snyderman Gallery, Philadelphia; Winter 2015 – 2016
We live in world full of gorgeousness. The most fantastic phenomena arising, interacting with other phenomena, disappearing.
Only to arise again in another season. The same or slightly different. Endlessly. Without our intervention.
And we and our species with them.
Some viewers of this work complained about these images: morbid, macabre, distressing, dark.
Isn’t this our world? Isn’t this a depiction of our lives?
When the Hunter Sings, the Birds Take Wing; 1991
Human Nature, 2017. From the artist’s website
The hardship: emotional, economic and psychological unease which we experience; the fragility, the vulnerability of our individual existences; existential threat experienced by millions of people trying to live a life
in the midst of a natural world:
fantastic, fecund, fragrant, diverse beyond our imagining and without regard for anything but its own survival and mysterious equilibrium?
Our lives as they are.
A mystery invoking both our fear and dread and supplication for protection
and never ceasing awe, wonder, pleasure, and gratitude.
An astonishing interpretation in stained glass – associated, of course, in the ‘West’ primarily with the sacred – by Judith Schaecter.