April 30, 2008

Stained Glass - on a License Plate

News today that Florida will likely not approve the idea of a Christian themed license plate.


I'm more or less indifferent regarding the idea of a Christian themed license plate.

My problem is this - I don't like to see the image of a stained glass window used as a generic symbol for religion. I see it all the time, and I don't like it. If you must, think of it as my own call for 'brand protection'. I do not want stained glass shown as inherently or exclusively religious.

I was raised a Christian, specifically a Lutheran, but the particular church building I knew as a child did not have stained glass. My parents were not overly religious, neither were they interested in religious art, so we never made a practice of visiting other churches. Therefore, I never developed the notion of "stained glass equals religion".

I became interested in stained glass through the arts & crafts movement of the 1960's, specifically through seeing it for the first time at the Guilford Handicraft Festival, now the Guilford Craft Expo, in Guilford CT. Here, and for the 10 or so years after I first became interested in stained glass, I came across no subject matter specifically related to religion.

In the many years of working in the field of stained glass as a professional, I've grown to know, love and admire religious stained glass. I've met and known colleagues in the field who work in stained glass primarily because of their faith and I can respect that. I've worked on many religious stained glass windows in studios over the years, and have designed and fabricated some on my own.

Nevertheless, I still don't think of stained glass inherently, and certainly not exclusively, as a religious art. Instead, I see stained glass as a unique combination of materials and techniques that makes for especially striking, dramatic, colorful and beautiful artwork. I'm content with that.

I suppose my fear is that if more and more people associate stained glass exclusively with religion, the less stained glass will be seen as appropriate for public or commercial situations, or even for non-religious personal commissions.

I don't remember this practice of using the stained glass window as a generic symbol for religion being so pervasive 20 years ago. Was I just not noticing it as much then? Or am I just bothered by it more as I get older?

Whatever the answer, I say to Florida, if you must have a Christian themed license plate, fine - just please leave off the stained glass window.

Oddly enough, I came upon this story in yet another reference to stained glass on The Colbert Report. The world gets curiouser and curiouser...

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
The Word - Separation of Church & Plate
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[update, June 21, 2008 - Florida may not be doing it but South Carolina has approved the idea, inspiring even more satirical articles.]

Posted by Tom at April 30, 2008 10:22 AM