The Cold Song by Henry Purcell

The Cold Song by Henry Purcell

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Judith Schaecter’s stained glass piece Cold Genius is inspired by song, as are many of her pieces. This piece in particular takes inspiration from “The Cold Song”, an aria written by Henry Purcell about a Cold Genius who recognizes the power of love to thaw the harshest winter (Cold Genius, 2009). Although it has many references to traditional stained glass scenes found in Christian churches, particularly in the intricate folds of the fabric, this stained glass piece is very distinct.

To exaggerate the loneliness and intense physical and emotional cold in the scene, the layer of glass that covers the panel adds another degree of separation from the subject. Swaths of shadow border the sides, and tree branches snake over the top, as if the Genius were on display in a cage of trees, or perhaps on a stage. The Genius in the center is uncomplaining, suffering and seemingly dying without opposition. The black pools of his eyes are abysmal, displaying the very root of his unexplained despair and apparent acceptance of his fate.

German studio glass artist Erwin Eisch has produced many intricate and curious modern sculptures during his long career, perhaps his most personal being “Eight Heads of Harvey Littleton”. Eisch met the American glass artist Harvey Littleton in 1962, and their close friendship led to a unification of European and American studio glass cultures. The sculpture is a portrait of his friend made up of eight individual cast glass heads with enamel detailing, each displaying a different mood or characteristic of Littleton.

The relationship between Eisch and Littleton was mutually inspirational and both left a very deep impression on the other. Littleton, who was teaching at the University of Wisconsin when he first encountered Eisch, stated that “meeting Erwin confirmed my belief that glass could be a medium for direct expression by an individual” (Littleton, 1980). One of the heads in Eight Heads of Harvey Littleton has a speech bubble with the words “Technique is cheap” written in enamel. This phrase is one that Littleton uttered during a conference and sparked rich debate, and was clearly something that Eisch kept with him. What Littleton meant by the phrase is that “technique is available to everybody… [t]echnique in and of itself is nothing.

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But technique in the hands of a strong, creative person… takes on another dimension” (Byrd, 2001).

Lino Tagliapietra’s set of two large glass vases, Hopi, is very much inspired by the ceramic art of the Hopi people indigenous to Arizona (Hopi, 1996). The shorter of the two is clearly designed with the wide-shouldered and narrow-footed form found in many examples of Hopi pottery. The brilliant red is likely an homage to the iron-rich red clay found in the region where the Hopi live. Also reminiscent of Hopi clay works is the swirling, cascading pattern of black lines that are possibly meant to represent fingerprints, as Hopi pottery is traditionally pinched and manipulated by hand, rather than with a wheel (Purdue, 2010).

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