Judith Schaechter‘s stained glass windows and light boxes are a juxtaposition of medieval aesthetics and contemporary life, her carnivalesque world a depiction of despair made all the more so by a series of claustrophobic images that utilise a mind boggling array of textures, details and intense colours. Ironically Schaechter is an atheist working in a medium which is an indelible part of Western religious art yet in her hands this is all dismantled, played upon, experimented with.
What Schaechter and her religious predecessor’s have in common is the use of light to bring the figures to life. But there it ends. Schaechter’s figures have more in common with underground comics and political satirists than they do with the angels and the saints of the Bible. As she says herself:
I like them to be all wrong in all the right ways; distorted to the verge of ugly, yet beautiful; expressive of a range of emotional possibilities, yet ambiguous; universal enough for a lot of people to relate to them and not just specific to me…they are portraits of people who exist in my imagination, possibly surrogates for myself-but only insomuch as I am an ‘everyperson.’
While she is commissioned to make windows Schaechter often makes stained glass light boxes comprised of multi-layered flash glass that has been cut and ground smooth then variously painted, sandblasted, filed and engraved. This technique allows her to create incredibly detailed compositions that manage to bridge the medieval tradition with contemporary concerns. It is a technique that requires much patience, draftsmanship and technical ability. Look closely. What do you see? Alot. The work has a complex narrative drawing on many influences from maps to Victorian tapestries, Ukiyo-e woodblocks to allegorical prints and Communist propaganda to board games. It is quite incredible. Here’s what she has to say about her work:
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.
My main interests are sex and death with romance and violence the obvious runners up. I’m trying to be as cliché, sentimental and
decorative as possible, not as a strategy for ironic commentary about sentimentality but because this is the stuff that time and time again I am drawn to, obsessed with and that I have faith in.
These fantastic works of art really need to be seen in situ to be fully appreciated. So much so that I’m not sure they’re worth putting online except for the fact that her work is exceptional.