Beauty Behind Bars

Using Eastern State Penitentiary as a backdrop and metaphor, artist Judith Schaechter created beautiful stained glass panels in the gloomiest of places.  She wondered, "What would a prisoner think while looking out the window?"  These windows are more than a ray of hope in what once was a hopeless place.

The largest of 17 windows is in a transom in cell block 11.  It is entitled, "The Battle of Carnival and Lent."  It's based on the 16th C. original by Pieter Breughel, but with many liberties taken.

Judith's characters, cartoon or clown like, depict the angel vs. devil battle over control issues.  The monks representing lent, clash with the clowns in a riot scene; an epic battle.  Control, religion, and class are timeless themes and, certainly prevalent in prison.

In the sliver of skylight ~ panels were installed dealing with themes such as redemption, repentance, religion, rehabilitation.

Dark humor and characters such as PrometheusAtlasAndromeda, Mary Magdalene, and Noah make appearances in the panels.

The myth of Icarus, as represented by the wings and outstretched arm tells the tale of a Greek figure who flew too close to the sun, even after being told not to.  Judith wonders, "Why be punished for dreaming big?"

The beauty of the stories the colored glass tell set amidst the decaying walls and dusty environment create a powerful experience.

phs: CLI, Claire Oliver

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