Friday, February 22, 2013

The Conclusion of "The Saga of the Unlit Stained Glass"

      If you've been keeping up with my blog you know that my family took a recent trip to the Toledo Museum of Art's Glass Pavilion.  There we saw many amazing works of art glass ranging from hand blown chandeliers to ancient painted mirrors.  
Two "venetian" vases handblown by Dale Chihuly.
      While I am always willing to gaze upon any type of glass art, my real enthusiasm is for works of stained glass.  After searching the entire Glass Pavilion, we finally located the 5 stained glass panels in the museum.
Louis Comfort Tiffany stained glass at night.
Unlit. In a glass museum.  Where people come to view glass art.
      To my great dismay, we discovered that all the stained glass pieces were unlit. I am still asking myself why a glass museum would allow any of their treasures to be on display but un-viewable.  It would be a lie to say I "took this in stride."  In fact, there was a moment or two of what could be labeled an emotional breakdown.  Luckily the room was so DARK that no one noticed.  I don't think.  
      I tried to cheer myself with a Matisse...
A Miro`...
Woman Haunted by the Passage of the Bird-Dragonfly Omen of Bad News,  1938
And a Picasso.
Woman in a Black Hat, 1909
     But is is only because I have the most wonderful, most understanding, most generous husband in the world, that I was able to rise from my depression.  He agreed that we would be able to make a return trip to the Toledo Museum of Art Glass Pavilion the following morning to view the stained glass in their daytime glory. What a guy! 
Jardin Sous la Pluie (Garden in the Rain), by Francis Chigot
I love how the glass pieces in the center area of this panel seem to glow brighter than the surrounding pieces.  The artist achieved this simply by choosing glass pieces with varying opacity and 
      The above Art Deco style window was created in 1928 by french artist, Francis Chigot.  Setting up his workshop in 1907, Chigot quickly became France's leading stained glass artist, rivaling America's Louis Comfort Tiffany.  Chigot is most well know for his work with France's national monuments and restorations of stained glass windows destroyed during World War I.
Detail of Francis Chigot's Garden In the Rain, 1928
      Garden in the Rain was inspired by Claude Debussy's 1903 piano piece Estampe No. III, "Jardins sous la pluie."  The colors and shapes of the window capture the tone of Dubussy's composition suggesting driving rain and dripping vegetation, but with a hint of blue sky to come.

Four windows by Louis Comfort Tiffany discovered in Mausoleums of the historic Woodlawn Cemetery in Toledo, Ohio
      What a difference a little light makes, don't you think?  The four Tiffany windows in the Glass Pavilion's collection were discovered in a local Toledo cemetery. What a find! 
Landscape Window with Mount Washington, New Hampshire, 1929
from the Snyder Mausoleum
      Today Louis Comfort Tiffany is widely recognized as one of America's leading glass designers around the 1900's, but during his lifetime he was best known primarily as a designer of religious art, particularly memorial windows. His windows were installed by the thousands, mostly in Protestant churches and cemetery mausoleums, and were the bulk of his business over four decades.   
Landscape Window with View of Lake and Distant Mountains, 1922
from the Fisk-Collins Mausoleum
      Tiffany's earliest windows generally depicted standard religious subjects and mimicked contemporary religious paintings. By the late 1890's Tiffany and his staff began producing a new type of religious window with nature as its subject.
"River of Life" Memorial Window: Eventide, 1914
from the Layng Mausoleum
      Some windows showed religious symbols nearly obscured by flowers and plants, while others featured landscapes including no religious symbols.  Using a range of new glass types and a variety of experimental methods, Tiffany produced vivid realistic trees and brooks, skies at dawn and dusk, and spring and autumn foliage.
"River of Life" Memorial Window: Daybreak, 1914
from the Layng Mausoleum
       I can look at Tiffany widows for hours on end.  It never ceases to amaze me how the artists at Tiffany studios can manipulate their glass selections in a way that may trick you into thinking you are viewing a painting rather than pieces of glass.  But alas, my family was parked at the curb. As I returned to them, camera full of photos, mind filled with inspiration, it was with a much lighter heart than the last time I left the Glass Pavilion. 

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Toledo Museum of Art Glass Pavilion

Vitrana, by Dominick Labino
at the Glass Pavilion of the Toledo Museum of Art
      About three weeks ago my family and I played hooky from a half day of school and work, and took a road trip to the Glass Pavilion of the Toledo Museum of Art in Toledo, Ohio.  I had planned this trip as part of my Lilly Teacher Creativity Fellowship activities long ago, and have been anxiously awaiting our visit to this museum within a museum.  
Three people who probably should not set foot anywhere near a museum filled with g l a s s.
I had my reservations about taking the 3 Stooges inside the Glass Pavilion with me, but approaching the doors of the museum gave me my first glimpse of the glass treasures within - the Dale Chihuly blown glass chandelier hanging inside the front door.  I decided I couldn't keep them from enjoying these gorgeous glass masterpieces with me. 
      The Glass Pavilion was built in 2006 to house the Toledo Museum of Art's world-renowned glass collection.  The collection features more than 5,000 works of glass art from ancient to contemporary times. I could barely contain my delight at seeing so many beautiful glass creations.  But most of all, I was breathlessly anticipating the stained glass pieces I would find here. The search begins...
The Glass Pavilion has it's own glass blowing studio, so renowned glass blowing artists are featured prominently in this museum.  The above chandelier, Campiello Remer #2, was produced by Dale Chihuly. Even though it is colorless, it is breathtaking!  Especially when you are used to seeing Chihuly's art only in pictures. 
Close-up detail of Campiello Remer #2 showing the striated textures on each and every
hand-blown piece.
Untitled, by Toots Zynsky
This bowl shape is made entirely of fused glass threads
       As we continue the search for what I'm sure will be an awe-inspiring collection of stained glass (and trying to dodge the overly-protective docent who keeps eyeing my children with suspicious glances), we find several interesting pieces of unique glass art along the way.
One of Hank's very favorite activities at home is to grab a bottle of Windex and "wash" the windows.  Imagine his delight upon eyeing this bedazzled bottle of his favorite window cleaner!
Still Life With Pear, by Flora Mace and Joey Kirkpatrick
I think my grandma used to have a set of this glass fruit on her coffee table.
Nope. Not unless Grandma found her glass fruit at the Jolly Green Giant's garage sale.
Evelynn and Hank resting a moment on a glass bench.
Evelynn: "Sitting on glass feels really strange. What if it breaks? Will I get in trouble?"
Hank: "I don't have a problem with it!"
      By now we've seen some amazing works of glass art.  I was very impressed with how the museum was able to light the glass pieces to richly, especially at night.  There is still so much to see. They must keep the stained glass pieces at the very far end...right?
Prussian Blue and Oxblood Persian Pair, by Dale Chihuly
Sovereign Cloister--Beyond War, by Michael Glancy
Reverse-Painted Mirror Portrait of Elizabeth Graham, Chinese, Quianlong Period
        Amazing glass art from ancient times to modern day...but I still can't seem to locate the stained glass pieces.  After locating the suspicious docent who has been stalking us throughout our tour, I ask for directions to the room where I can see the stained glass.  He points the way, and I am giddy with anticipation...

Until I see this...
A very unflattering view of Francis Chigot's Garden in the Rain.
      I have waited almost a year to visit this museum, to see beautiful, world renowned stained glass.  I am breathless to see what glorious creations are stored in this museum so far from home...and when I finally reach my destination, the glass is unlit.  It is dark, dull, and ever-so disappointing.  I can see my own reflection in the glass better than I can see the glass's design or colors.  And my reflection is horrified, mortified, and overwhelmingly sad.
These are four panels of Louis Comfort Tiffany stained glass designs.  Forgive my out-of-focus photo, I was trying not to sob too openly during this shot.
      We have no choice now, but to leave.  We visit the rest of the Toledo Museum of Art, which has a wonderful selection of relevant artworks, but my heart is just not in it at this point.  I was momentarily cheered when we found a small stained glass window inside the main museum by Frank Lloyd Wright.
Avery Coonley Playhouse Window, 1912, by Frank Lloyd Wright
I saw a matching window from the same playhouse during my visit to the Art Institute of Chicago.
        Will I ever get to see the 5 stained glass pieces I traveled across state lines to visit?  Or is this trip destined to become a sad memory of what "could have been?"  

      Stay tuned for the conclusion of "The Saga of the Unlit Stained Glass."

Friday, February 15, 2013

Mary Thornton Nature Preserve, Wabash County

Walking in a wintery wonderland at...
Mary Thornton Nature Preserve, Wabash County, Indiana
      The last couple of winters around here have produced little in the way of measurable snowfall, sadly.  I have become anxious about receiving visual inspiration for my Lilly Teacher Creativity Fellowship project's "Winter" stained glass panel. What's winter with no snow? Brown, that's what.
A snowy path through Mary Thornton's woods.
      Luckily, Mother Nature finally decided to bestow upon us some of the white stuff. Not enough to cancel school, (not even a delay!) but enough to provide me with a snowy photo op, and hopefully some wintery inspiration.
A perfect winter snow: soft, fluffy, and peaceful.
      My time spent outside during my Teacher Renewal Grant has taught me that I can learn to be more outdoorsy. In fact, I have come to crave being enveloped in the great outdoors - the colors, the air, the sounds and smells.  However, the preparations required for an outdoor adventure in the dead of winter is not a craving that I have yet acquired.
There's so much to do...long johns, socks, another pair of socks, heavy jeans (for those of us who own no coveralls or snowmobile suit)...
...long sleeved shirt, sweatshirt, hair pulled back, sock hat, hair taken down because a sock hat hurts with a pony tail, snow boots made one size too small from two pairs of socks...
...scarf, winter coat zipped up, winter coat unzipped due to aforementioned scarf caught in zipper, coat zipped again, gloves with removable finger covers for camera clicking, sunglasses for blinding snow...
...and finally, off to the woods!
      If I had to get in a car and drive to a nature preserve after all the effort of preparing for it, my "Winter" inspirations would probably be sourced from Google.  Lucky for me, the Mary Thornton Nature Preserve is a mere quarter mile walk from our front door.  Doable, even with my extra tight boots.  
Many fungi do not die in the winter. Several types of lichen and fungi are able to dehydrate their cells to prevent cellular freezing. They lie dormant until they are free from ice and suitable weather conditions have returned.
       Once inside the preserve, I was surrounded by a pristine, white blanket of snow.  Much of nature's details were hidden from view, but I was able to find several varieties of friendly fungus.  
Try as I might throughout the preserve, I was unable to find many colors.  I saw a lot of white (duh), brown, and oranges.  And this welcomed, be it tiny, bit of green moss.  
It can take years for bracket fungi, like this Turkey Tail variety, to break down and decompose a fallen tree.  The concentric lines you see on these fungi are growth rings, giving you an idea how long they've been working on this hunk of wood.
     This nature preserve is a small one, so I was finished with my picture-taking and snow-hiking before too long.  But the stillness of the frosty air and the gentle snowfall was so peaceful that I found myself lingering just a little longer within nature's wintertime splendor.  

Woods in Winter

~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
When winter winds are piercing chill,
  And through the hawthorn blows the gale,
With solemn feet I tread the hill,
  That overbrows the lonely vale. 

O'er the bare upland, and away
  Through the long reach of desert woods,
The embracing sunbeams chastely play,
  And gladden these deep solitudes. 

Where, twisted round the barren oak,
  The summer vine in beauty clung,
And summer winds the stillness broke,
  The crystal icicle is hung. 

Where, from their frozen urns, mute springs
  Pour out the river's gradual tide,
Shrilly the skater's iron rings,
  And voices fill the woodland side. 

Alas! how changed from the fair scene,
  When birds sang out their mellow lay,
And winds were soft, and woods were green,
  And the song ceased not with the day! 

But still wild music is abroad,
  Pale, desert woods! within your crowd;
And gathering winds, in hoarse accord,
  Amid the vocal reeds pipe loud.
Chill airs and wintry winds! my ear
  Has grown familiar with your song;
I hear it in the opening year,
  I listen, and it cheers me long.