Joyful, Luminous Glass

01/01/2024
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    A stained-glass dome titled The Second Innocence, the Dream of Dionisyos, by Narcissus Quagliata, decorates the El Santuario Resort hotel in Valle de Bravo, Mexico. (AP/Ginnette Riquelme)
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    Artist Narcissus Quagliata stands in his studio in Valle de Bravo, Mexico. The 81-year-old is the master of the glass-fusion technique. (AP/Ginnette Riquelme)
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    The Dome of Light at the Formosa Boulevard metro station in Kaohsiung, Taiwan (Public domain)
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    Quagliata’s method fuses multiple colors of glass into a single sheet. (AP/Ginnette Riquelme)
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    The stained-glass window titled Puerta de la noche, meaning “Door of the Night,” by Italian artist Narcissus Quagliata, stands in the garden of the El Santuario Resort hotel in Valle de Bravo, Mexico. (AP/Ginnette Riquelme)
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    A visitor views The Second Innocence, the Dream of Dionisyos, at the El Santuario Resort hotel in Valle de Bravo, Mexico. (AP/Ginnette Riquelme)
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Narcissus Quagliata sprinkles colorful, finely crushed frit onto a transparent pane. He bakes the grain-coated sheet at nearly 1,500° Fahrenheit. Firing his project takes several rounds and almost an entire day. Upon cooling, a stained-glass image emerges. It isn’t made of choppy blocks of color. The colors blend and fuse like paint on a canvas. Light pours through, creating a joyful, luminous piece of art.

For 50 years, Quagliata has created stained glass for sacred spaces, private homes, and public exhibits.

The power of light and glass first struck Quagliata in the 1960s. He surrendered his dreams of traditional painting and embraced painting with stained glass. He considers his greatest artistic legacy a groundbreaking fusible glass technique he developed.

Before the 81-year-old craftsman perfected his fusing technique, stained glass involved separate colored pieces held together by lead strips. A few artists tried to merge colors. Most failed.

Quagliata says it comes down to simple chemistry: Each color possesses its own combination of minerals. The minerals determine the glass’s cooling temperature. In order to prevent cracking, artists use colored frit made from compatible glass types. The crushed glass must be heated in a kiln to just the correct temperature to allow it to melt, fuse, and cool gradually to avoid cracks. Manipulating the colored glass in the kiln is called kilnforming.

Quagliata has become a mentor for other glass artists.

Tim Carey was lead artist for a stained-glass church window more than 90 feet wide and nearly 40 feet high.

Carey wasn’t sure how his team would pull off the 161-panel The Resurrection Window. He didn’t know how to mix colors within a panel, as his design proposed. He called Quagliata. After much cooperation, the window became reality. The design was Carey’s, but the subtle fusion of colors was Quagliata’s.

Members of the congregation wept as the window was hung in the church.

The Dome of Light in Taiwan is dear to Quagliata. The 98-foot-diameter stained-glass piece is made of 1,152 panels. It took Quagliata and 20 assistants five years to complete.

Afterwards, “I was depressed for months,” Quagliata admits.

He decided to focus on the future instead of the past and work “as passionately as you did when you were young,” the artist says. Quagliata faced fears of technology and crafted an online masterclass. What’s a key takeaway from his course?

“Stop being distracted by what light illuminates! Just look at light!”

Sound advice for windows—and for life.

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. — James 1:17

Why? Scientific laws, set in place by the Designer God, inform and equip art.

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