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Sarah Hall's Stained Glass
~ an aesthetic and ecological marvel
by J. S. Porter, Hamilton, Ontario – www.spiritbookword.net
My life has been blessed by the presence of artists. I’m not able to paint or sculpt or design on glass, but I have friends who are able to do these things exceptionally well. Vicariously I share in their talent.
Sarah Hall, RCA, the internationally-renowned glass artist, came into my life via an invitation to dinner from a mutual friend in Toronto. After dinner, our friend arranged for an exchange of books. He gave Sarah my Spirit Book Word and gave me Sarah’s Windows on Our Souls.
When she received her book, Sarah proceeded to open it at the chapter concerned with the writing of D.H. Lawrence. She read away, oblivious to the conversation around her. When she finished reading, she said, “Good. Lawrence is one of my favourites.”
I thanked her for her brief, but positive, comment and thought nothing more of our encounter until weeks later when I received a phone call from her studio in Toronto. Sarah asked if I would come to the city for some conversation. I said that I’d be happy to.
When I arrived she was in the process of carrying large sheets of glass into the studio. I gave her a hand. Once inside, I looked at the paper models on her work desk, drawings and sketches for future projects, and some experiments with colour on Bristol board. The music of Vancouver composer and violinist Oliver Schroer played in the background. I asked her questions about the nature of stained glass, its history and current developments.
I was struck by the tidiness of her work space, so unlike my own basement space which bears some resemblance to how I imagine Calcutta to be. It was a pleasant afternoon. I was about to leave, still not knowing why I’d come, and Sarah said, “Oh by the way, I’d like to collaborate with you on a book. I’ll call you later about the details.”
So began our collaboration on “The Glass Art of Sarah Hall.” [More about the book below.]
For the last ten or so years Sarah has been focused on how best to combine the beauty of stained glass with the latest technological innovations in energy efficiency. Her first photovoltaic conversion of sunlight into energy was the installation of windows in the Solar Decathlon in Washington, D.C. in 2005.
Since then, she has integrated solar cells
(building-integrated photovoltaics) into other large glass
* "Leaves of Light" at York University in Toronto.
* "True North/Lux Nova" at Regent College, University of British Columbia in Vancouver. The 40-foot-high wind tower generates electricity without greenhouse gas emission. The photovoltaic array, embedded between two panes of glass, is composed of thin silicon and metal cells that convert sunlight into electricity. The energy collected is used to power the LED lighting system at night. The slowly changing coloured lights are synchronized to the music of Oliver Schroer. The installation also incorporates the Lord’s Prayer in Aramaic.
* "Waterglass" at the Enwave Theatre, Harbourfront Centre, Toronto.
* "The Science of Light" at Grass Valley Elementary School in Camas, Wash.
* “Lux Gloria" at the Cathedral of the Holy Family in Saskatoon. This glass installation is currently being connected to Saskatoon Light & Power's electrical distribution network. The cathedral windows are the first in the world to integrate solar energy collection into their stained glass. The glass was tempered before 1,013 poly-crystalline solar cells were soldered in by hand, coloured silver to match the artwork, and then permanently embedded. Each solar panel is a different size and shape to add aesthetic appeal.
Each of Sarah’s
photovoltaic projects incorporates
solar cells of different colours — for example, silver in the cathedral in Saskatoon, blue at Regent College and gold at Grass Valley Elementary School — intended to blend with the accompanying artwork and the façade of the building. The cells themselves are strikingly attractive in contrast to the visual ugliness often associated with solar panels.
ecology can, in the hands of a capable
artist, harmoniously fuse. As architecture critic John Bentley Mays says in “Innovating Tradition” about “True North/Lux Nova” at Regent College, “[It’s] a strong culmination of Sarah Hall’s experimental melding of modern technologies and her ancient art… it is also an important moment in her
ongoing campaign to renew the art of architectural glass in our time.”
For more about Sarah’s glass installations, turn to www.sarahhallstudio.com. Alternatively, take a drive to Vancouver to see her use of text in the “Mysteries of Light,” a glasswork she designed for Holy Name of Jesus Catholic Church; or, take a summer bus tour of Sarah’s glass in Toronto, organized by the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM). Sarah is working hard to make Toronto into Vancouver – a city of glass.
J. S. Porter, Toronto §
[Thank you to Sarah for sharing images of her work which grace the front & back covers of this issue.]
BOOK: The Glass Art of Sarah Hall
– a richly illustrated book of Sarah Hall’s art, written by J. S. Porter; Forward by Dr. Karen Mulder, published by Glasmalerei Peters GmbH, Germany (2011)
[EXTRACT] “ ‘The great things of our existing are given us, not made by us and finally not to be understood as arbitrary accidents. Our making takes place within an ultimate givenness.’ – George Grant
“So much is given in life: family and
friends, the sun, water, the plants, the animals. The meditation on interbeing by the Vietnamese Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh comes to mind. The
paper that you hold in your hand comes from the sun and the clouds and the
rain, it comes from soil and trees and workers and pulp mills, and it comes
from printers and assemblers and bookstores. Take any one element from the
equation – take away the sun and rain to spur the growth of the tree – and you hold nothing in your hand. Likewise with Sarah Hall’s glass art. ‘All stained glass,’ she says, ‘is born of fire and pigment.’ Its origins in sand are given, the fire is given, and the pigment is both given and made. The light that refashions the glass by its forceful or receding presence is given. A long chain of human involvement in the art-making process is also given. Each is a gift to the other. Glass art, more than any other art with the possible exception of theatre, links person to person to person. It’s a social art form, a collaborative art form.”
– From The Glass Art of Sarah Hall, by J. S. Porter, p.78
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