When I started working in stained glass as a student in 1980, I thought, ”This is the thing that will never bore me!” – of course that didn't turn out to be entirely true, but I think, over time, I have developed a true love for the medium and for its mostly unexplored expressive “painterly” possibilities.
When I went to art school, I thought for sure I would be a painter but the medium soon started feeling all wrong to me. I find few things more terrifying than a blank canvas and nothing is more easily filled with meaningless “arty” brushstrokes. I went through a phase when I would gesso over all the superfluous elements – and I would always end up staring at a white rectangle again. I can't remember why, but around that time I took a stained glass elective class. Because it was not my major, I felt free to do junk. All my life I have been a compulsive “doodler” and I began interpreting these doodles in stained glass. This was the magic moment when I understood the “secret of art” – and that I had been doing it all along without recognizing it!
With regard to subject matter, I don't have narratives in mind and am trying to be deliberately vague and open to interpretation. Telling a story is never as fascinating as snatching a moment out of time and freezing forever in space. In order to create a full picture, I am forced to supply a context for the faces I draw. The context usually includes a full body and an environment – abstract or pictorial. This context could be seen as the life and/or world of the character. So my subject could be interpreted as “people” and “life.”
As with the faces, when working on the rest of the image, I am looking for a combination of the familiar and the unexpected, the absurd and the ordinary and an image that is “all wrong in all the right ways.” All the things I was told in art school that I couldn't do because they “are not art” are things I am irresistibly attracted to now. It would be misleading to speak about the significance of my work as if it came from some kind of master plan or philosophic stance. I rely mostly on my intuition when making work and I tend to understand it only with hindsight. Cliched and sentimental subjects and decorative designs fascinate me – not just as a forbidden fruit and not as a strategy for ironic commentary but because this is the stuff, that time and time again, I am obsessed with, in love with and that I have faith in.
Judith Schaechter is represented by the Claire Oliver Gallery, New York, New York.
Selected Recent Exhibitions: 2010 – Judith Schaechter: A Relentless Pursuit of Perfection, Mobile Museum of Art, Mobile, Alabama. 2009 – Judith Schaechter: A Relentless Pursuit of Perfection, Taubman Museum, Roanoke, Virginia; Ashes to Ashes: Life and Death in Contemporary Art, Contemporary Art Center of Virginia, Virginia Beach, Virginia; Forever Young, Abington Art Center, Jenkintown, Pennsylvania; Seriously Stupididity, Shadow's Space Gallery (Kung Fu Necktie), Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Fata Morgana: The New Female Fantasists, Dabora Gallery, Brooklyn, New York; Pretty is as Pretty Does, SITE Santa Fe, Santa Fe, New Mexico.
The Cold Genius
2009, stained glass, sandblasted, engraved, painted with vitreous paint, assembled with lead, copperfoil and exhibited in lightbox, 25" high, 43" at the top, 35" at the base
Joan of Arc
2007, stained glass, sandblasted, engraved, painted with vitreous paint, assembled with lead, copperfoil and exhibited in lightbox, 35"×31"
2007, stained glass, sandblasted, engraved, painted with vitreous paint, assembled with lead, copperfoil and exhibited in lightbox, 26"×52"