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Let There Be Light

Haggerty Museum presents exhibit on local collection

Lake Country Reporter – Oconomowoc, WI
Aug 30, 2010

St Elizabeth
 St. Elizabeth

City of Oconomowoc—The grand opening of an exhibit that focuses on Oconomowoc’s own Oakbrook Esser Studios will take place tomorrow at the Haggerty Museum at Marquette University.

‘Let There Be Light: Stained Glass and Drawings from the Collection of Oakbrook Esser Studios’ will run through Jan. 2, 2011.

“It’s a great honor to do this,” said studio owner Paul Phelps.

According to information from the university, the exhibition examines the function of stained glass as a means for religious storytelling and investigates how that history affects the understanding of work in stained glass by contemporary viewers.

The exhibition also reveals rarely seen processes that go into the creation of stained glass, including life-size preliminary drawings and small-scale color renderings in gouache, ink and watercolor.

The 21stained glass pieces in the exhibit represent an array of styles, subject matter and time periods.  The oldest word in the exhibition is a 14th-century French border piece; the most recent work was designed by German artist Johannes Schreiter in 2007 and fabricated by Oakbrook Esser in 2009.

Phelps said the idea for the exhibit has been two years in the planning, and centered on a collection of their drawings from religious windows from the late 18th and early 19th centuries.

Phelps said an artist discovered the drawings inside a vault in a St. Louis building that previously housed the Jacoby Art Glass Co.

The Jacoby Art Glass Co. was acquired by Esser Stained Glass of Milwaukee; Oakbrook Esser Studios was born when Oakbrook Studios of Oconomowoc acquired Esser in 1986.

“It’s almost like it was destined to be” he said.

The full-scale preparatory drawings for stained glass projects have never been seen before.

“It’s just so cool.  It’s like someone’s national treasure.  For our industry, that’s what it felt like to me.  You won’t find that ever again,” Phelps said.

The goal of the exhibition is threefold.

“The intent is to showcase and educate people to our craft in the stained glass field and to share the process and maybe also to raise the profile of the artists,” Phelps explained.

In addition to the historic and religious pieces, Phelps said there will be examples of work with a more modern appeal.

“There are a few contemporary pieces that show the extreme contrast in styles,” Phelps said.

The exhibit “just kept growing,” he said, as more opportunities were presented.

Phelps said the studio has collaborated with Vermont painter Janet McKenzie.

“Because we have three stained glass windows based on her paintings, the museum researched her work and they now have her exhibit running simultaneously with ours,” he explained.

“It’s very exciting,” Phelps added.



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