St. Ann’s Catholic Church: Chapel

Midland, Texas

Western Perspective III
PBS documentary (Summer/Fall)

Cover-story in “Stained Glass”, Winter 2012:
The Stained Glass Association of America’s quarterly journal

Architect: Rhotenberry Wellen Architects, James Rhotenberry, AIA; Andy Chandler, AIA

Sculpture: Shelley Kolman Smith

Altar Window: Creation: Let There Be Light
8.25' w.by 12.5' h. (each side)

Memorial Chapel Window
1.3' w. by 10.0' h.

Garden Window: Lift Up Your Eyes
19.25' w. by 5.6' h.


Parishioners requested a bright, colorful and airy backdrop for worship. The architects hoped the stained glass would identify and anchor the Altar area within this otherwise fully rearrangeable, multipurpose space. And then there was the extremely close proximity to a busy, 4-lane city street . . .

ALTAR WINDOW: “CREATION” beckons worshipers from the end of the diagonal axis that leads from the main entry across the Chapel to the Altar. Darker glass in lower sections provide visual separation from Illinois Avenue. The stained glass (and the “dead-air space” it creates) dramatically reduces round-the-clock street noise.

Expanding arcs of white and amber opalescent glass radiate outward, pushing away darkness. These incomplete circular shapes imply our imperfect understanding of God’s infinitude. Careful analysis and placement of the arcs allow their “circle-ness” to survive “folding” around the Chapel’s corner. Opal glass’s reflectivity animates the window even during the day as seen by passersby (or at night for worshipers within).

Afternoon sun projects colorful patterns that vary with the hour, day and season. Lighter tints in upper sections create views to sky and clouds. Austrian lead-crystal prisms project tiny rainbows throughout the Chapel as reminders of God’s unexpected gifts.

MEMORIAL CHAPEL WINDOW: During the fabrication of “Creation”, it was decided to include stained glass for the adjacent Memorial Chapel’s narrow window. It’s design is an extension of ripples expanding outward from “Creation’s” left side. The setting sun projects dramatic color and sprinkles spectra all the way into the main Chapel.

GARDEN WINDOW: “LIFT UP YOUR EYES” enframes views to bell tower, tree canopies and sky. The folding glass wall system upon which its sits leads to a gathering space, landscaped garden and columbarium. Pale color and texture subtly convey God’s presence without creating overt focal points that could distract from the Altar and worship. Clear glass along lower edges blend smoothly into the clear-glazed doors below.

As in “Creation”, partial arcs underscore our limited comprehension of a perfect God. Wing-like shapes represent the Holy Spirit, Angels and uplifted hands. On sunny mornings prisms send tiny rainbows throughout the Chapel as reminders of God’s unexpected gifts. Triangular shapes symbolize the Holy Trinity and echo architectural details.

 

OTHERS COMMENT:

Thank you so much for coming and talking to the 8th graders! It really means a lot to us! You are an amazing artist! You did a very good job on the stained glass! I can’t imagine how long it took to do that! I really want to go and see the white glass tonight! I’m really excited. The windows are so very cool and people could stare at it for hours and still find new meaning in them! Thank you for making them for us!

Megan, Eighth Grade Class, St. Ann’s Catholic School, Midland, Texas


Materials: German and Polish mouthblown glass, domestic rolled glasses, Austrian lead-crystal prisms, lead and solder.