In an exhibit of new work, Judith Schaechter has created some of her very favorite pieces.
But what makes them her favorite pieces?
“I’ve really tried to analyze my criteria because for the most part, I’m in a state of stress and fear and completely freaking out over my work all the time,” Schaechter said. “It would be helpful to know what would make me happy.”
Several of those pieces which ultimately did make her happy are part of the show “Agony and Ecstasy: Contemporary Stained Glass by Judith Schaechter” at the Chrysler Museum of Art in Norfolk, Virginia. The show opens on Sept. 20, 2019 and runs through Jan. 5, 2020.
Fourteen illuminated artworks that span an eight-year period from 2009-2017 will be displayed.
So what does make Schaechter happy with her pieces?
“The answer is I want it all,” she said. “I want my pieces to be profoundly meaningful. I want them to be interesting to look at it. I don’t want them to just be eye candy. Most of all, I want to learn something new about making an image in stained glass that I have not learned before. I want that with every piece. Do I actually get my wish? No. But this is like my greatest hits from the last few years.”
Among the works in the exhibit are Anchoress, The Life Ecstatic, The Florist, and Immigration Policy.
The title of the show, “Agony and Ecstasy” was chosen by Carolyn Swan Needell, Ph.D., the Carolyn and Richard Barry Curator of Glass at the Chrysler Museum of Art.
“The curator took a very proactive approach,” Schaechter said. “I absolutely see why people read that into my work.”
It’s a common theme when people ask Schaechter questions about her work. As part of this exhibit, she will participate in a conversation with the artist at 2 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 23. She will hear the same questions she had heard since the 1980s about her work, but she welcomes and embraces the opportunity to talk about her art to people who are interested.
“I totally enjoy it,” Schaechter said. “I’m always willing to do stuff like that. When Toni Morrison died, someone posted a quote from her about how she spent her whole life explaining herself to people. I feel like I’m always answering the same question – Why is your work so depressing? So first I deal with the fact that I don’t think it’s depressing.
“I really do love talking to people about my work. It’s not completely narcissistic because I’m incredibly grateful that people are interested. And they’re different people asking the question. The fact is that people don’t know, so the way to find out is to ask the question.”
After this exhibit, Schaechter will have her first major retrospective opening in February 2020 at the Memorial Art Gallery at the University of Rochester (New York). The exhibit will then travel to Toledo, Ohio and Des Moines, Iowa. The retrospective will cover the span of her career with about 45 objects with an accompanying book which will include three essays and an interview with Schaechter.
“I just thought yippee!” Schaechter said when asked about the retrospective exhibit. “Sometimes I think I’ve chosen a tough road to hoe in my life. I make stained glass windows that are apologetically female subject-matter wise. It’s not just having female characters, but they’re decorative which is associated with womanhood.
“I used to get asked relatively frequently if I felt like my work was discriminated for or against because I was a woman. My feelings have radically changed over the years. Back then (the 1990s), I didn’t feel that way at all. … I think that for people looking for a way to dismiss my work, they found easy, convenient reasons. Not one of those people, not a single one, would say I don’t like this because a woman did it. But instead they would say it’s too emotional, too decorative, too narrative. All the things that were also womanly. Yin energy rather than yang energy. But I’ve gotten a lot of support and I’m grateful for all of it.”
All photos from Claire Oliver Gallery.