PROPOSAL FOR ARCHITECTURAL STAINED GLASS

VETERANS MEMORIAL HOME, VINELAND, NJ

Submitted by: J. Kenneth Leap October 10, 2002


Statement of Intent

Thank you for the opportunity to present my designs for the windows of the Library and Chapel at the new addition to the Vineland Veterans Memorial Home. About a month ago I made a tour of the existing facility, paying particular attention to the evidence of mementos from the residents, unfortunately I was unable to meet with anyone during my impromptu visit. I hope to speak to some of the veterans that use the facility at a future date but in the interim I read Andrew Carroll’s book WAR LETTERS - Extraordinary Correspondence from American Wars, to give myself a frame of reference.

One letter, written in 1943 from a serviceman stationed in England to his infant daughter set the tone for me:

“I pray that the efforts of your daddy and his buddies will not have been in vain. That you will always be permitted to enjoy the great freedoms for which this war is being fought. It is not pleasant, but knowing that our efforts are to be for the good of our children makes it worth the hardships.”

The Library Windows

My design for the Library windows seeks to communicate to the veteran, “Your life is remembered; your sacrifice is valued”. By mixing historic and contemporary imagery, I hope to emphasize the link between the past and the future. I have particularly chosen a subdued color scheme so this south facing window will provide a gentle illumination that will be comfortable for reading. The sepia tones relate to historic photographs and the warmth of old parchment. . The image of a young woman and the flag that dominate the top of the composition is meant to symbolize America or Lady Liberty. The angel blowing the trumpet presents a joyous symbol of patriotism and valor. I have placed one block of text at the viewer’s eye level. This is a verse from the Star-Spangled Banner; albeit one that is not commonly sung. It reads:

Oh! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand

Between their loved homes and the war’s desolation

Blest with victory and peace, may the heaven-rescued land

Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation.

Then conquer we must for our case is just,

And this be our motto: “In God is our trust.”

And the Star-Spangled Banner forever shall wave

O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!


The Chapel Windows

For the windows of the chapel I have set the tone with color. Blue, the symbol of sacred space, paired with the green of renewal and everlasting life predominates. White doves of peace soar in the sky. Here, inscribed in the glass, I present for the viewer two of the lesser-known verses, of the he hymn “America the Beautiful”, which seem almost written with the Veteran in mind:

O beautiful for heroes proved

In liberating strife.

Who more than self their country loved

And mercy more than life!

America! America!

May God thy gold refine

Till all success be nobleness

And every gain divine!

O beautiful for halcyon skies,

For amber waves of grain,

For purple mountains majesties

Above the enameled plain!

America! America!

God shed his grace on thee

Till souls wax fair as earth and air

And music-hearted sea!

In today’s society the elderly are sadly forgotten. As a nation, we are afraid to look at them because they remind us of our own mortality, which we desperately seek to deny. In the haste of our busy lives we are reluctant to slow to their pace, to listen to their stories of life lived. In this chapel I hope to honor our aged by finding beauty in their wisdom and by not being afraid to look at them. The figures presented in this preliminary design are from stock references. As have done in previous public commissions, I would meet your resident veterans and choose from among them models to represent all.

In my mind, I like to believe that the elderly have reached a place in life where they are given the time to pray: for each other ? as a burden shared and for our country ? the history of which they have seen and shaped. Perhaps I can serve to support them in that goal. In this chapel, through the forces of color and light, I would like to offer your residents a place of peace and refreshment, a place to meet with God.


Technical Scope

There are many techniques for creating meaningful imagery with glass. The history of the application of stained glass to the building arts stretches in an unbroken line back to its misty origins in the Middle Ages. America made its unique contribution during the second half of the 19th century with the invention of opalescent glass. This glass, in which the color is marbleized with white to give it opacity, became almost synonymous with the name Tiffany.

I have been working in stained glass for more than 15 years. Through out my career I have focused on an older tradition, which is European in origin. I begin with sheets of transparent glass and apply glass-based pigments to the surface to control the opacity of the color. The imagery I create is rendered permanent buy firing the glass in a kiln. This technique, called glass painting becomes part of the surface of the glass; it never changes color, nor fades and has been evidenced to last centuries.

Recently, working with a studio in Germany, I have begun to explore an application called float glass painting, which is proving to be particularly suited to the style of contemporary architecture. Based on the same time tested techniques of kiln fired enameling this technique involves painting color directly on commercially produced sheets of optically clear glass. The painted sheet can be fired in a large kiln or industrially tempered like any other sheet of plate glass. Facetted prisms or specialty handmade glasses can be laminated to the toughened glass surface allowing for additional decorative effect and eliminating the need for lead as an assembly technique. In my most recent commission, for Kean University in Union, New Jersey, I used tempered glass panels, which were made into thermal pane units and installed as the curtain wall of the building.