Reredos at Altar & Reservation Chapel

Immaculate Conception Catholic Church
Denton, Texas

Artist Citation Award
Texas Society of Architects/American Institute of Architects

Architect: Dennehy Architects, Fort Worth, TX, Paul & Sandra Dennehy, AIA

Wood Cross & Furniture: Clay Foster, Krum, Texas

12.0' w. x 24.0' h.

This glass reredos separates Altar from Eucharistic Chapel as a backdrop for Mass and a life-size Crucifix. The crescent moon, a traditional Marian symbol, is found at the base of the window where white glasses symbolize Mary’s purity while also creating diaphanous separation between Nave and Chapel. Clear transparent glasses symbolizing enlightenment increase as one’s gaze moves upward. From the chapel the transparent glass emphasizes views to the Nave’s crowning cupola and, when seen from the Nave side, to a clerestory window above the chapel. As a shimmering veil separating Nave from Chapel, Altar from Tabernacle, this window symbolizes the omnipresence of God as Trinity.  Three colors of dichroic glass accents descend downward in a powerful spiral around/behind the Corpus. The only other exceptions in an otherwise achromatic palette are the reds and ambers that announce the Sanctuary Lamp as a beacon visible throughout the Nave.



Frankly, I was not expecting very much when I came to the Task Force Meeting last Thursday to view the model for the glass art submitted by Jeff Smith.  However, I must confess that after viewing his design for the new church I was deeply impressed.  The energy of form, subtlety of modulated lights and darks, and dynamism of linear movement that it brings to the (sanctuary) is truly awe-inspiring.  Furthermore, his style works excellently within the rather immense bare interior to help focus the worshipers’ attention on the altar.  In fact, it works so well to enforce the altar focal point, I find it extremely difficult to conceive of the interior as unified and whole without it!

Dr. John A. Calabrese, Professor of Art, Texas Women’s University

The strength and power of Jeff Smith’s designs lie in their openness to interpretation.  The lines, shapes and light qualities are available for each person to discover what is  most meaningful and significant to them.  Church historian Newell Williams commented once that hymns with clear, well-defined theology seldom survive revision of the hymnal.  The ones that last are evocative but vague enough that people with different understandings can find themselves in the words.  Likewise, a lot of religious art has been made through the centuries, but not all of it has had enduring appeal.

Art that  does endure has an evocative but flexible quality.  It is the very nature of art to be variously interpretable — and therefore, as the church interprets, reinterprets and reinterprets yet again our liturgical practices, it is important that our art and architecture remains meaningful for the generations that come after us.

Clay Foster, Sculptor and Committee Member, Immaculate Conception Church, Denton, TX

Materials: German and French mouthblown glass, domestic rolled glasses, dichroic glass, lead and solder with a protective glazing of tempered glass on both sides.