American Influenced Stained Glass at Our Lady of the Mountains

[The following was written for LAJ by Joseph K. Beyer, the president of Beyer Studio, Inc. about a stained glass project his firm undertook in Jasper, Georgia at Our Lady of the Mountains.]

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"My collaboration with Father Charles Byrd, Pastor of Our Lady of the Mountains Church in Jaspar Georgia, began with a phone conversation about the empty windows in his rural church building.   Like many pastors or Church Committees, Father Byrd was struggling to decide on a theme or iconography for stained glass. People feel that it is their responsibility to take control of the creative process, deciding how the windows should appear, what style and content, etc.

"Imagining is a skill that improves with practice, all the more reason to exploit the abilities of someone who has made creating their day-job.

"I can recall telling Father Byrd, 'If I were to create new stained glass exactly as he expected, I would have failed him.'

"People are happy to place their trust in their tax preparer, relying on experience and knowledge to benefit them financially; but when they feel uncomfortable making design decisions, they are nevertheless reluctant to place trust in a professional.

"Fearing that they will be held accountable for artistic failure, they will reach for something safe and traditional, and oftentimes an opportunity to make a deeper connection with today’s faithful is lost.  Respecting and building on our artistic past is a good place to begin, but this is a time when American Catholics should be making their contribution to the history of Catholic Art, and that legacy must amount to more than mere imitation of the past.  The very best art happens when a congregation is willing to be surprised.

"My phone call with Father Byrd was the beginning of a collaboration that resulted in 28 new windows for Our Lady of the Mountains. For this rural Georgia Church, I chose to include as many local references as possible, thus avoiding any generic or vaguely traditional looks. In this way, we would be emulating the best practices that produced the great Tuscan windows in Florence or the English originality of the Pre-Raphaelites.

"A teenage Virgin, wrapped in the modesty of an American patchwork quilt, encounters the Angel in a garden filled with Mountain laurel (the favorite Georgia native species) while Cardinals and Cedar Waxwings hover.  I have always liked including calligraphy in my designs and here the Magnificat adds a visual rhythm as well as a context for the narrative. 
"The numerous aisle windows featured standing figures of saints. Again, a traditional format was brought forward by placing the saints under a canopy of Georgia dogwood. The Northstar quilt pattern was again used as a richly colored gothic revival background."

-- Joseph K. Beyer 

To see more of the work: Beyer Studio: Our Lady of the Mountains

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