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Artist: David Wilson - St. John the Baptist Catholic Church, Hartland, Michigan

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Featured Windows, June-July 2013

Brody Hall

Building: Brody Hall

City: East Lansing

State: Michigan

Filament

It is somewhat unusual for a major university to install contemporary glass in their public and private spaces, but Michigan State University in East Lansing, Michigan has recently done that as part of an overall “Art in Public Places” initiative. When three circa 1960 residence halls were slated to undergo major infrastructure renovations, literally from top to bottom, three contemporary glass artists were asked to design site specific installations (Ed Carpenter, Martin Donlin and Guy Kemper.) This essay will explore the work of Portland, Oregon glass artist and sculptor Ed Carpenter with subsequent essays about Donlin and Kemper’s work. (http://www.edcarpenter.net/home/home.html)

Glass artist Ed Carpenter had an early start in the overall world of art, with his artist grandfather and his architect step father as mentors while in his formative years in Santa Barbara, California. Surrounded by their general art and architecture work, in the 1970s Ed became transfixed by stained glass…..the colors!!…..and…..influenced by books about/by stained glass artist Robert Sowers (1923-1990) (1) who in 1954 wrote an “iconic” book for the stained glass world, The Lost Art; Peter Mollica (1941- ) (2); Patrick Reyntiens (1925- ) (3); and Ludwig Schaffrath (1924-2011) (4). Ed spent several months trekking through Germany, finding and photographing installations by well-known post World War II contemporary German stained glass masters.

Subsequently, Ed applied for and received a fine arts grant from the Graham Foundation and went back to Germany to actually study with Schaffrath for several months and upon his return, became a professional designer of stained glass. Along the way, Ed became interested in the play of light…. and he began to seriously think about how to utilize this play of light within a building’s architecture in his work.

A very major installation in 1980 was the stained glass for the Portland Justice Center in Portland, Oregon (5). Here, the use of beveled and faceted glass provided changing reflections during the day, and of course seasonally…hence forth, this play of light became the main item in Carpenter’s tool bag.

Shortly, Carpenter became involved with an installation for a classroom/laboratory building at Oregon Institute of Technology in the Oregon desert, Klamath Falls, Oregon. It was here the interior wall surfaces were used as canvases upon which the daily cycle of the sun would cast reflections from the hundreds of prisms and strips of dichroic glass (6). This was a very early use of dichroic glass, which, coincidentally now has been transformed into a well know product and is used by hundreds of jewelry artists, although a tad costly.

Carpenter developed a team of engineers, glass and metal fabricators, installers and lighting designers as more and more public art projects were desirous of using reflected light – this has evolved into interior sculptures at several major airports, federal buildings, city halls and libraries; exterior sculptures at city halls, colleges and universities and a roundabout in Belfast, Ireland, and….. bridges, mainly pedestrian over roadways (7).

Some of the installations involved the cold bending of tempered glass. Carpenter discusses this process: “one must differentiate between cold cure bent laminated tempered glass (using cold cure resin between the layers), and cold bent tempered glass, which simply takes advantage of the flexibility and strength of tempered glass (in a single layer). At Carlson, http://www.edcarpenter.net/portfolio/0301.html and various other projects, the glass was tempered, then just bent by hand using the springiness acquired by the glass in the tempering process. Of course, a lot of testing and mock-ups were required to understand the bending limits of various thicknesses of glass. “

As the readers can now determine, the June 2011 Michigan State University-Brody Hall installation is not a stained glass window per se. But, as Ed Carpenter has developed his vision of working with glass (and his art) over the years, it is important for you the reader to have a retrospective of how and why his vision has evolved. One can equate this change in Ed’s vision to that of well known German stained glass artist Johannes Schreiter when his post WWII stained glass windows displayed an illusion of burned paper and floating lead lines (he called them “collages”)……very, very different from pictorial stained glass prior to WWII….and, that of Ludwig Schaffrath who used “line” as a distinguishing tool of his mainly colorless stained glass designs.

Brody Hall installation: What is not apparent to the casual observer, Brody Hall is one of five campus neighborhoods of 5 or 6 residence halls each, scattered around the MSU campus and as such houses a dining hall, student health and wellness facility, computer lab, study halls and much more ……student traffic in and out of Brody is constant due to it being the center for its neighborhood of several residential halls.

When he was invited to provide an installation for Brody Hall, Carpenter was asked to consider the lobby in general, and as the dining hall is at the top of a long flight of stairs up from the lobby, he felt this provided an opportunity for students to have a feeling of being “in” the sculpture, as they entered and left the dining hall. Carpenter created a sweeping, ascending gesture and utilized as much of the space as possible. Special engineering is always involved in these kinds of projects, and as such ceiling and column anchors were welded into the building’s steel support structure. http://www.edcarpenter.net/portfolio/0314.html,. All eight photos show different views of the installed sculpture.

Filament sweeps thru the atrium of Brody Hall, with morning light striking the dichroic glass sculpture and casting color and light on the floor and ceiling. At night, carefully installed lighting has the same effect.

**Interesting, as this was being written, another Carpenter installation in Michigan was just completed…..in Ann Arbor about 70 miles southeast of East Lansing (9)

ENDNOTES

1. http://www.craftcouncil.org/post/robert-sowers-architectural-art-glass (accessed June 7, 2013)

2. http://www.petermollica.com/contact.htm (accessed June 7, 2013)

3. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Patrick_Reyntiens (accessed June 7, 2013)

4. http://blog.glassquarterly.com/2011/02/23/in-memoriam-ludwig-schaffrath-1924-2011/ (accessed June 7, 2013)

5. http://www.edcarpenter.net/portfolio/0406.html(accessed May 29, 2013)

6. Dichroic glass was developed in the 1950s and 1960s by and for the space industry, in order to protect human vision from harmful sun rays so as to not blind astronauts (used in the shields for space vehicles). Thin films of metal were vacuum deposited on clear glass which created an effect which allowed some wavelengths to pass through, and some to be reflected. This provides a shifting color pattern, and the colors can be predetermined by the metal that is applied and today, there are at least 50 choices and/or combinations.

7. In viewing Carpenter’s website, one can link to Portfolio to view the breadth of the various commissions/projects in the past 30 or so years. The Video is 18 minutes, but worthy of viewing as Mr. Carpenter discusses, in general, the processes for a few of his installations.

8. Thanks to Ed Carpenter for supplying information concerning the actual mechanics of the Brody Hall installation.

9. http://www.edcarpenter.net/portfolio/0317.html (accessed June 7, 2013)

(MSGC 2013.0003)

Text by Krueger, Barbara, Michigan Stained Glass Census, June , 2013.