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Windows of Enlightenment.

My designs were drawn and painted by hand during many painstaking hours of studio work. They were mostly composites of the windows viewed, in an effort to add something distinctly new and different to their already exquisite design. The colour palettes were usually selected to reflect the original choices of the artisans who created these masterpieces of stained glass on the Queen's University campus ...

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In wandering the Queen's University campus in Kingston over the last few decades, I have repeatedly seen some of Kingston's most beautiful and inspiring limestone buildings. But I have also been drawn in by the beautiful stained glass windows that puncture these strong and stable stone walls.

My eye has been tuned into such discoveries of stained glass creations after having visited many famous sites, each with its own glory: Chartres Cathedral, France; Ste Chapelle in Paris; St Giles' Cathedral, Edinburgh; and the wonderful collections found in two stained glass museums in Chicago. Having taught art history part-time for over 20 years at Ontario colleges, I find that this also has contributed to my unending search for new sources of visual stimulation and delight.

At first glance from the outside, these windows on the Queen's campus appeared to be somewhat remote and possibly a bit "slumbering." But my intrigue led me to wonder what could be viewed from inside (as intended by their artisans). My amazement was fortified as I viewed these virtual jewels that came alive when seen from the interior, as light poured magnificently through their tracery and glass. Having heard so much about what was to be my first stop, the playfully dubbed "Harry Potter Room" in Douglas Library, my natural inclination was to discover other such gems on campus--and there certainly were many. Some were found in buildings well known for their glorious portals for light (Douglas Library, Morgan Memorial Chapel, and Grant Hall), while others were less obvious (the Grad Club, the Queen's Community Housing office). A "virtual tour" of Herstmonceux Castle led to its inclusion as a campus "jewel."

After completing much visual research by drawing and photographing the windows in many of the campus buildings, I had a vast collection of material from which to work. In the course of this gathering of information, I met many welcoming staff members for the first time, and the Queen's spirit of sharing and celebrating the university was found to be very much alive and well.

As an artist myself, I was infused with a personal mission to spread my enthusiasm for these Queen's campus treasures and to help celebrate their vibrancy and enduring presence. Painting my own interpretative images and then photographing them for a series of greeting cards became my means of accomplishing this.

I had been introduced to a new artistic medium through an arts fundraiser, in which local artists were asked to paint porcelain plates for an auction. A special water-based porcelain paint was applied to the surface, was allowed to dry, and then was baked in a domestic oven to cure. To my eye, these paints had exactly the qualities needed to capture the glow and dazzling vibrancy of the stained glass windows. I applied the paint to 12 white porcelain tiles measuring 6 by 8 inches. My designs were drawn and painted by hand during many painstaking hours of studio work. They were mostly composites of the windows viewed, in an effort to add something distinctly new and different to their already exquisite design. The colour palettes were usually selected to reflect the original choices of the artisans who created these masterpieces.

It was a labour of love that took about one year to complete. Each window and tile presented its own challenges--but also provided its own unique sense of joy. During the process, another light shone through which proved to be a viable analogy. As the series of painted tiles evolved, they continued to celebrate the intrinsic beauty of the windows--these often overlooked campus gems. But they became fittingly symbolic of how enlightenment can be gained when one has looked outside from within a dynamic, nurturing educational environment --Queen's University.

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Mary O'Brien works (using her left brain) in accounting on the Queen's University campus by day and feverishly works (using her right brain) in her home studio by night. More information is available at: meo@kos.net. Her cards are available at the Campus Bookstore, Queen's University.
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Author:O'Brien, Mary
Publication:Queen's Quarterly
Article Type:Critical essay
Geographic Code:1CANA
Date:Dec 22, 2016
Words:822
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