Judith Schaechter’s Incredible Layered Stained Glass Art

judith schaecter stained glass art

When most people think about stained glass, the Romanesque and Gothic narrative panels in churches and synagogues are usually what comes to mind. Artists and architects have since explored the media, processes and techniques and pushed it far beyond Biblical themes. One of the most impressive living contemporary stained glass artists is Judith Schaechter, whose most recent exhibition, Path To Paradise, features over 40 pieces of her extraordinary work.

Judith Schaechter Stained Glass Art

Judith Schaechter Stained Glass Art
Judith Schaecter, Meadow, 2018

The Path to Paradise is the first survey and major scholarly assessment of groundbreaking artist Judith Schaechter’s 37-year career. The exhibit features approximately 45 of her stained-glass panels along with a selection of related drawings and process materials.

The Floor 2008
Judith Schaechter, The Floor, 2008
The battle of Carnival and Lent 2012
Judith Schaechter, The Battle of Carnival and Lent, 2012
Layering the varied colors of glass (left) results in deep, rich colors (right)

From her start in the 1980s, Judith Schaechter (b. 1961) has stretched the medium of stained glass into an incisive art form for the twenty-first century, boldly paving her path in the diverse arena of contemporary art. With deep respect for history, a provocative rebelliousness, and a feminist sensibility, Schaechter has aptly been called a “post-punk stained-glass sorceress.” Her meticulous and awe-inspiring stained-glass panels are intentional seductions, alternative visions of beauty, and radical statements of female experience.

the birth of eve 2013 stained glass
Judith Schaechter, The Birth of Eve, 2013
Judith Schaechter, The Widow, 2008
a close-up of Judith at work, etching the glass

With more than 225 panels spanning her career, Schaechter has developed a singular figural style and a rich personal iconography. Her unruly female protagonists neither fit the ideal standards of beauty, nor do they comport themselves in a becoming manner, as they sometimes vomit, writhe, and commit violent crimes and sexual indiscretions. Her fantastical galaxies and pseudo-earthbound universes, rich in bizarre flora and fauna and in ever-changing states of growth and kaleidoscopic color, are all born of her imagination.

The Florist 2017
Judith Schaechter, The Florist, 2017
Judith Schaechter Stained Glass art
Judith Schaecter, title unknown
Judith Schaechter, Donkey Ducky Dream, 2003
Judith Schaehcter, Donkey Ducky Dream, 2003

“Schaechter’s provocations express her punk rebellion against the status quo, and they normalize the nuances of female sexuality, a topic still fraught today. In his introduction to the catalogue, noted scholar Glenn Adamson celebrates the artist’s “comic grotesqueries…infused with a degree of heavenly grace.” Adamson continues, “She does not turn her eyes away from the very worst of human nature. Schaechter must be the only stained-glass artist in history whose work warrants trigger warnings.”

contemporary stained glass art
Judth Schaechter, Io the Cow Faced Maiden, 2018
judith schaecter glass art
Judith Schaechter, He’s Haunted, 2005
stained glass art
Judith Schaechter, Anchoress, 2016

Schaechter’s respect for the traditional medium of stained glass is matched by her drive to innovate. She is well versed in the historic techniques of stained glass, however, her panels—hung from the wall in custom-made light boxes—are contemporary art forms that stand alone. With artistic influences as wide-ranging as pulp fiction covers, neuroscience, Northern Renaissance masters, MAD magazine, ancient mythology, and medieval manuscripts, Schaechter’s work calls for a process that is equally diverse, incorporating online image sourcing, intensive doodling, Photoshop acrobatics, and her innovative, masterful manipulation of glass. She said she thinks of her practice “as an extreme sport. I’m not messing around. I deliberately make it as hard as possible. . . .”

Judith Schaechter, The Temptation Of St Anthony, 2018
Judith Schaechter, The Temptation Of St Anthony, 2018
Judith Schaechter, Caught in a flood, 1990
Judith Schaechter, Caught in a flood, 1990

Shown cropped at top:

modern stained glass
Judith Schaechter, My One Desire, 2007

The Path to Paradise: Judith Schaechter’s Stained-Glass Art at the Memorial Art Gallery is showing through May 24, 2020 after which it will travel to two additional venues in the United States: Toledo Museum of Art (June 27 to October 4, 2020) and Des Moines Art Center (February 5 to May 9, 2021).

Gallery Views:

Path to Paradise gallery view
Path to Paradise gallery view

The Catalog/Book:
The Path to Paradise Exhibition catalog
The full-color, 160-page catalogue reproduces Schaechter’s 45 stained-glass panels, related drawings and process materials gathered from private and museum collections. The Path to Paradise includes an introduction by Glenn Adamson and essays by Jessica Marten, Virginia Chieffo Raguin and Diane C. Wright. Published by RIT Press in conjunction with MAG.

Buy the book here

Watch the Artist talk about her work (video):

Judith Schaechter (courtesy of Claire Oliver gallery)
With brilliant color and dazzling beauty, Schaechter seduces the viewer to look closely at her work. The artist states: “Beauty is what has always captured the viewer’s attention and allows them to spend time with my work. Once involved, it is easier for them to read the content held just below the surface.” By design, nothing in Schaechter’s lightboxes allows for a straightforward narrative or a single meaning. Schaechter deliberately chooses images that are ambiguous enough to handle multiple viewer interpretations. Interested in the paradoxes of image-making and the tension between illusion and truth, the artist examines the notion that we can never gain the proper perspective necessary to gauge our current “reality” without completely disassociating ourselves through time or space. We can look to representations, i.e. works of art, to temporarily resolve this dilemma.

All images courtesy of Judith Schaechter

Her newest work is to die for. You can see the processes on her blog at https://judithschaechterglass.blogspot.com/

Follow the artist on Instagram here

Additional images and information courtesy of the following:
Claire Oliver
Memorial Art Gallery
Rochester Institute of Technology

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