Rita Shimelfarb  
Artist's Statement

I'll never forget my first experience of seeing a stained glass window.

I was 17 and I'd never seen a stained glass window before. It was in an unassuming cathedral in Vienna, on a small street I surely will not find on a map again. I stumbled in and there it was, a huge rose window in rich delicious color, hitting my retinas straight on, piercing my heart and ripping it open with the harmony and force of light. The feeling was so immediate and intense, my throat closed, my eyes filled with burning salty water and I had to sit down. I think I landed on the floor.

Oh, it was not love and adoration I was experiencing at that moment. It was raw Divine, in all of its intensity, unapologetically declaring its presence. It took my heart and I was done in....

Having grown up in the Soviet Union, my idea of Divine was synonymous with "religion," which every schoolchild in USSR subconsciously paired with "opium for the masses.” My religious education at that point was equivalent to that of an alien visiting Earth from some galaxy far-far away. The subjects in the images I saw in glass in that cathedral made no sense to me, as I had no idea what they represented. But that was irrelevant. It was not about the concepts and ideas. There was an irresistible precision to how transparency and color of the glass played with the intensity of the filtered light. The grace of lead lines and the powerful force streaming through the grids those lines created sounded like music in my head. I was being “tuned” to a specific frequency, whether I chose to submit to it or not. And I knew then that I wanted to become a member of that special tribe which held the secrets to the magic of making the unseen - the Divine light - seen.

My work is about creating, through painted stained glass construction, all sorts of contraptions for your eyes to act as a sort of a radio to tune you “in” to this Divine energy of light. We all are like musical instruments when the light hits us. We don’t sound the same or hear the same thing. However “sameness” is not an intended end result to what I do. It is a given to me that you will be vibrating at your own frequency. The subjects I choose are meant to slow you down mentally for just long enough to have the light start working its magic. To me the purpose of my art is not about making you see something “pretty”, or having your brain analyze a specific story, or having your heart be overtaken by a specific emotion. It is more about the whole “re-tunement”. I feel that there is no bottom to the myriad of ways glass allows me to do this. I prefer to mix the techniques, for instance combining traditional glass painting and contemporary fused elements and dichroic glass. Engineering new ways to not just approximate, but to zero in on evoking the exact frequency I am after is a never-ending quest, sometimes frustrating, sometimes surprising, but always hopeful and exciting.

all artworks copyright Rita Shimelfarb