Faith & Form, the Interfaith Journal on Religion, Art and Architecture, edited by Michael J. Crosbie, celebrates its 50th anniversary in the fall of 2017 with essays from the current movers & makers in the field.
Annie Dixon contributed a futuristic obituary for stained glass, which is both humorous and ominous.
by Annie Dixon
The past fifty years were dynamic and challenging ones for ecclesiastical art and architecture, and particularly trying for the field of stained glass. If current demographic and design trends continue, the 100th anniversary edition of Faith and Form may contain the following notice.
Ecclesiastical Stained Glass Artwork, 675-2067
Born in the 7th century, Ecclesiastical Stained Glass Artwork came of age in the 13th and lived a long and influential life that was both international and interfaith. Its health began to decline in the 20th century, following recurring bouts of Abstractionism, Dalle de Verre, and Lamination. It endured Chronic Cost Justification Syndrome for years before finally suffering a severe reduction in new commissions and was unresponsive to resuscitation attempts by untrained practitioners.
Predeceased by skilled design partners William Willet, Louis Comfort Tiffany, Conrad Pickel, Franz Mayer, Charles Eamer Kempe, Wilhelmina Geddes, Ronald Neill Dixon, Charles Connick, and Harry Clarke, stained glass languished alone in its last days. Young talent ignored it, pews emptied and patrons disappeared; even colleagues in manufacturing had retired, closing their firms or shifting from a hand-blown palette to machine-made clear architectural glass.
Although devoted to the church, stained glass did flirt with residential and commercial applications but never found meaning in such dalliances. Rumors circulated that Marc Chagall, with whom it had a much celebrated affair, was the love of its life but, as they came from different worlds, neither of which understood the relationship, they never married.
Leaving no direct heirs, Ecclesiastical Stained Glass Artwork is survived by distant cousins in the secular glass crafts, as well as its replacements in the church: the latest sound system, a coffee shop, and an inspirational phone app. A large bequest consisting of warehouses of pictorial glass panels of various vintages and quality has been rejected by major and minor museums and will be available at auction, with no reserve.
The funeral will be a karaoke praise music service held in an austere multipurpose gathering space with a nondenominational pastor presiding. The six pallbearers carrying the casket to the graveyard are the self-taught artist, the minimalist architect, the church finance committee, the iconoclastic liturgical consultant, the architectural salvage dealer, and the diocesan director of real estate.
In lieu of flowers, future generations suggest that friends of Ecclesiastical Stained Glass Artwork make donations toward the preservation of historic windows or to scholarships and apprenticeships in the traditional decorative arts.
Photo: Trinity Window by Ronald Neill Dixon at Central United Methodist Church in Kansas City, Missouri, one of the artist's earliest commissions. Photographed by Bruce Mathews for his book, Windows of Kansas City, published by Kansas City Star Books, 2014.
This article originally appeared in Faith & Form magazine's 50th Anniversary issue.