Stained glass maven, Judith Schaechter, recently published images of a very large new stained glass work called “The Battle of Carnival and Lent” on her blog. She created this work specifically for the Eastern State Penitentiary‘s long running art installation program, to which she was accepted last year. She’s been posting progress shots on her blog for a while now – I’ve posted some of them below along with shots of the final work.
The Eastern State Penitentiary is an unbelievably exciting venue for Judith to be showing her work. Like Alcatraz in San Francisco, the defunct jail is open to public tours and has Al Capone’s old cell dressed up the way he kept it back in the day (he was jailed in both locations during his career). Eastern State, however, has kept several of its hallways derelict and unswept, abandoned and dirty. Spaces that have been falling apart and eroding over the years since Philadelphia stopped using it in 1971 are kept in their tender state, dusty with caved-in ceilings. In some cells, knots of old tree roots have moved down and in, further eroding the building’s structure and warping what little light enters.
Judith’s work is self-described as “addressing in a non-religious way the psychological border territory between ‘spiritual aspiration’ and human suffering.” Since the penitentiary, the first of its kind in the United States, was meant to spiritually rehabilitate its tenants, and instead wound up psychologically harming many of them, this new work is an authentic interpretation of the structure’s sordid past.
There are three more small pieces Judith needs to make before the full work is fully finished. All will be installed in the transom of Cellblock 11 starting April 1, if not earlier, and will run for eight months. An opening reception for Judith and other artists involved in the program is scheduled for Friday, May 11, from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30.
Images courtesy of Claire Oliver Gallery.