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Stained Glass Window... A straightforward term... Seems to pretty much say it all, right? Well, not quite, at least not to me. Implicit in the term stained glass window is the transformative and elusive miracle of light, which itself implies an expansive, three-dimensional experience. In its purest, clearest manifestation, light is an ideal metaphor for spiritual growth and inward illumination – for the triumph of good over evil. Both symbolically and physically, light leads us out of darkness and into God’s embrace. When one expands the description of window to include its interaction with light, vivid three-dimensional images inevitably emerge in our mind’s eye. Suddenly, landscape and sky become part of the window’s flat picture plane. The serendipitous and wondrous projections of light and color onto walls and floors, altars and pews complete the concept of stained glass window as a glorious, multidimensional experience that is constantly changing with the passing of hours, days, and seasons.
As stained glass evolved as a medium, the crystal clarity found in its Romanesque antecedents and early Gothic efforts were gradually obscured by painting. Increasingly, stained glass windows’ potential for crystalline views out and transcendent sunshine pouring in became blurred by surface treatment. Painting on glass often has given us breathtaking, inspirational and glowing paintings. However, early in my career, I realized that my subliminal, intuitive attraction to stained glass was to its pristine transparency. Unlike painting on canvas, which we see via flat, reflected light, stained glass can transmit light through the picture-plane from beyond. The imagery I create within the surface of a window reveals itself in carefully planned, usually abstract symbolism AND, just as importantly, as rays of sunlight streaming into the worship space, weaving their way through our gazes back out to clouds and landscape.
Jeff Smith was part of the groundbreaking stained glass program at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge in the mid 1970’s. He later studied with German stained glass designers Ludwig Schaffrath and Johannes Schreiter. Smith founded Architectural Stained Glass, Inc. in 1977. His critically acclaimed stained glass can be found from Alaska to Florida and from New Hampshire to Hawaii. Past awards include four AIA/IFRAA International Design Arts Award and two of Corning Museum’s New Glass Review designation. After 24 years in Dallas, in 2000 Smith and his studio relocated to the Davis Mountains of west Texas.
Photos provided by Jeff Smith