Sunday, February 21, 2016

Stained Glass Windows at Mount Michael's Chapel -- Odell Prather -- The John and Patricia Borer Family

Many people who visit our chapel here at Mount Michael often make comments about our stained glass windows. I thought that it might be interesting to use our windows as a blog topic and perhaps give a little explanation and history about our windows.

Odell Prather is the artist who designed our windows in our chapel. She died not so long ago, (2001) but her art work will always remain with us. Some of her work can be found on different websites, if one simply searches on the internet in regard to the artist, Odell Prather.

I, personally, did not meet Odell, but I must admit that I would have loved to have spoken with her about the windows she desgined for us. Speaking to an artist is much like speaking with an author or composer. It is a way to understand the work of art more fully.

Here are the very words Odell Prather used to describe our windows.

The window designs here are abstractions. They are composed of earthy colors in soft tones. While designing the windows, my thoughts were based on the theme of the upward movement of progression both of Nature and of the Spiritual life.

The lower windows suggest a feeling of earth starta, and of rock strata, with mositure elements being drawn toward the skies. The break-up of forms suggests the nature of the atmosphere-- mobility and change.

The windows above these carry on this theme, adding a band of forms suggestive of plant life (shoots of green color).

In more spiritual terms, these designs have meant to me a reminder of the age-old ceaseless movement of simple life toward ever more complex life, toward an ever increasing stage-- higher consciousness, transcending by gradual stages from total earthiness with which we all begin life.

Unfortunately, these are all the words than I can pass on from the artist, herself. Nonetheless, in many ways she says much in the words she has used. The first word I would like to comment about is abstarctions. The designs are abstractions. I, personally, like that very much. I appreciate the artist allowing the common person to form his/her own understanding of the artwork, when viewing it.  

I have taken lots of photos of the chapel windows, but it is very difficult to photograph those windows. Below are 2 photos of most of the windows in the chapel-- first the south side and then the north side of the chapel.

                                                            South Side of the Chapel

North Side of the Chapel

There are several reasons why it is difficult to photograph the windows in the chapel. The first reason would simply be the structure of the chapel. It is a double octagon -- 16 sided structure. It is said that the basic architecture is reminiscent of the Byzantine architecture from the era of Emperor Justinian in the 6th century. Three churches survive today as prototypes: The Church of San Vitale in Ravenna, Italy; The Hagia Sophia in Istanbul and the baptistery of Sta. Constanza in Salerno, Italy.

The second reason for the difficulty of photographing the chapel windows is lighting. Of course, night time is impossible, and during the day it always seems that it is either too bright, with too much light, or too dark with not enough light.

                                                    Below are some photos of the outside of chapel.

Remember now the chapel's structure is something like a cake -- a wedding cake. The very top of the chapel is much smaller in circumference than the the lower levels. However, it is still 16-sided like the lower levels, but the sides are smaller. (This is observable in this photo.)

There are lots of windows in our chapel. Although the chapel is 16 sided, not all 16 sides have a window. There are 14 windows on the upper level. On the middle level there are 8 sections of windows with each window having 3 parts and then 2 sections near the organ, with each of these windows having only 2 parts.
On the lowest level, (floor level), there are a total of 8 sections of windows with each window having 3 parts to it.

                Below is a photo of one of the windows in the very upper level of chapel.

         This is one of my favorite windows in the upper level. It is repeated twice-- the very same window. And it is the only one that is repeated. I would love to ask the artist why she repeated it two times. For me the upper windows are very much atmospheric. I see wind in this window, whirling wind. And also note the small sections of brown -- earth colors-- dust is blowing in the wind. Abbot Theodore sees a Madonna in this window.

                    Below is another single upper window. It is near the organ on the East side of chapel. I am reminded of a hail storm in this window.

The photos below are of the windows on the middle level of chapel the balcony level. Before we had a pipe organ, the balcony was open all the way around. Now it is open only from either side.

The the photo below, note that the middle level windows (balcony) near the organ (left side of the photo) only have two sections, rather than the others that have 3 sections each.

Below is a photo of The John and Patricia Borer family. This family donated our stained glass windows. The photo below was taken the day we dedicated the windows in 1983.