following article was published in the
"Stained Glass Quarterly", Summer 1997.
The professional publication of the stained glass industry.
Memorial Windows", Blumberg Chapel, Temple Sholom, Bridgewater, New Jersey. Each
window is 3 foot wide and 8 foot high.
|A RARE WOMAN'S
SPIRIT CAPTURED IN
SYNAGOGUE'S ART GLASS
by Laurie DiCara
Sholom's Blumberg Chapel in Bridgewater, New Jersey, there now stands an evocative and
wholly modern triptych of stained glass inspired by the early death of a cherished young
woman of that community. Elyse Granetz died of multiple sclerosis at the age of 36. To
commemorate her rare spirit and courageous nature, the synagogue contacted Mark Liebowitz,
President of the Wilmark Studios requesting a meeting with Elyse's parents, Sharon and
Sidney Granetz and the architect of the recently completed Blumberg Chapel, Donald Pantel
of Tectonic Architects to begin the process of planning a fitting memorial to Elyse in
|It was soon apparent to all the participants
at these meetings that the renowned glass artist, Robert Pinart, would be uniquely
qualified to express the richness of the woman's soul in an abstract but poignant design.
From these first meetings, the commission took almost a year to complete and was recently
installed at the chapel and dedicated in a moving ceremony commemorating the second
anniversary of her death. In attendance were several hundred members of the community,
Elyse's family, the artist and the fabricators of the artwork.
|First window in the
series, inspired by the life and accomplishments of Elyse before her illness.
windows are designed as a symbolic and highly conceptual trilogy representing stages of
the life of Elyse. To follow the flow of the room, from the left, the windows move from
the first pastel-hued window's metaphor for vibrant childhood and spirited youth so full
of promise and achievement to the representation of the tragedy of her sudden illness
depicted in the central window, with its debilitating restraint of freedom and mobility
illustrated in the severe and angry-red collage cuts. Finally, the window on the right
brings a peaceful conclusion to the symbolic story with a sky blue overtone symbolizing a
transition to a higher spiritual level and a deeper resolve for the woman stricken so
young by fatal disease.
excerpt from Viktor E. Frankel's Man's Search for Meaning was printed in the
dedication day's guide:
"When we are no longer able to change a
situation- just think of an incurable
disease-we are challenged
to change ourselves."
||This statement, coupled with the three glass
panels which scale eight feet high, are testimony to the human capacity to overcome
adversity and earthly limitations. The panels, together measuring nine feet across, were
hung in the north windows of the Blumberg Chapel. A beautifully landscaped courtyard can
be seen through the windows. Transparency was specifically requested by the synagogue
leaders, and was achieved effectively by the selection of a transparent hand blown glass,
but which could nevertheless embody a powerful and evocative design.
|The windows are composed of a blend of hand
blown antique glass, flashed glass and flashed opal glass. With the exception of the
center panel, which makes use of intense reds and vibrant streaky purples in its
composition, the glass is predominately soft blues, lavender and gray tones interspersed
with white flashed opal glass that has been enhanced with vitreous paint and areas of
freely applied silver stain.
painterly approach to glass painting is masterfully explored by Robert Pinart on these
windows. In the fabrication facility of Wilmark studios, Pinart was able to carefully
study each section of the window as the cut glass was waxed to large glass easels and set
up in a window for painting. The process was repeated twice to allow for both glass paint
and silver stain to be applied and fired at the required temperatures. After firing, the
glass was leaded and the panels were completed in the studio prior to delivery and
installation into the frames provided for them.
|Central window, depicting
a debilitating and finally, her deadly affliction.
|Wilmark Studios of Pearl River, New York
fabricated the triptych under the supervision of Mark Liebowitz, owner and head craftsman
of the firm. Liebowitz has owned and managed the New York-based studio for over seventeen
years and has specialized in fabricating art windows in collaboration with many famous
artist, including Albinas Elskus, Harriet Hyams, Ellen Mandelbaum and Hendrik Vandeburgt
and also in restoring stained glass windows for churches and synagogues. Wilmark Studios
has many significant installations to its credit, in houses of worship all around the
United States. A sampling includes: the Washington Cathedral in Washington DC, the
National Arts Club in New York City, Temple Beth El in Charlotte, North Carolina and the
Shrine of the Most Holy Redeemer in Las Vegas, Nevada, among many others.
|Mark Liebowitz, over the year that the work
took to complete, was pivotal in seeing that the Granetz windows were executed in
compliance with a range of sometimes competing inputs and demands. He and his senior
craftsman, Timothy Macomber, took great pains to ensure that the religious customs and
tenets of the Synagogue were scrupulously observed, that the work was ultimately faithful
to the commissioning family's memory of their child, and that the vision of the artist,
Robert Pinart, remained uncompromised. This position of facilitator, although well beyond
the traditional role of glass fabrication, is one that the Wilmark organization frequently
plays and it is what drew the donors of this window to Wilmark.
|Detail of the right
window, depicting hope and a higher self, eventually peace and love.
||Robert Pinart, the Paris-born designer of the
memorial triptych, resides in Rockland County, New York and has created more than 100
major works in glass since he began experimentation in the art form in the fifties. His
work has almost always been abstract in form, as Pinart has sought fervently from the
beginning of his career to move well beyond the strictly representational approach of
traditional liturgical artists. His commissions are all characterized, therefore, by a
bright and free-form color palette, and a symbolic representation of the subject matter
that evokes both high thought and strong emotion. There is a distinct absence of heavy
black lines and somber paint overlay in Pinart's work; instead, a Pinart stained glass
installation is decidedly modern and energetic.
|In 1993, Robert Pinart was awarded the very
first "Lifetime Achievement Award" from the Stained Glass Association of America
in honor and recognition of his unique approach to the art form.
It is a footnote of
some poignancy that when the Blumberg Chapel work was awarded to the Wilmark Studios and
to Pinart, the artist had recently survived a very serious traffic accident, sustaining
injuries severe enough to completely restrict his free movement and to cause excruciating
physical pain. This accident and the months of recuperation it required made the already
empathetic artist acutely aware of the trauma which the commissioning family would have
suffered. It made Pinart especially driven to express an affinity with them in his moving
and ultimately uplifting glass design.
The Blumberg Chapel and the
Elyse Granetz Memorial windows are accessible to the general public on all days that the
Temple is open.
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