Professions of Faith: Stained Glass Making and the Visual Culture of Theology - PhDData

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Professions of Faith: Stained Glass Making and the Visual Culture of Theology

The thesis was published by Medlock Johnson, Paige Merritt, in September 2022, University of Stirling.


The world is a fractured place, faceted and fascinating in variety but broken in strife. Artist Gerhard Richter, said “Art is the highest form of hope” and the thinker Martin Heidegger said that art is a “happening of truth”. Marc Chagall hoped his art connected with people’s lives and sufferings and would become infused with prayer for redemption. How does visual art (and thinking theoretically and theologically about art) contribute toward hope and truth that bring the fragments of society into personal and communal connection? This is a practice-based (or studio-led) thesis in stained glass making at the juncture of the interdisciplinary fields of visual culture and religion. Making the visual art of stained glass windows involves collaborating, selecting, breaking, combining – processes that embody the unifying of disparate pieces. There are three projects and three chapters included in this research that work cohesively to show how visual art can facilitate a shift in us to see with compassion that guides our actions to care, and the word “EidenSight” is introduced to give vocabulary to this.
Research draws primarily from reflections on collaborative studio work, visual art and visual artists, aesthetic theory (especially of Heidegger’s essay “The Origin of the Work of Art”) and thinking theologically through these sources. Stained glass has been a profession of work and a profession of faith; here the ancient art is created for contemporary places and raises questions theoretically and theologically and identifies themes that contribute to an understanding of how art affects us. Over the centuries, stained glass has contributed to architecture, art history, and theological aesthetics, as well as viewers’ personal and social experiences, from ecclesial settings to public spaces. This research contributes three commissioned site-specific stained glass installations (two in the US and one for the University of Stirling’s Art Collection) that lead the written thesis which is embedded full of images and has a correlating website: The results are visual and verbal: requirements for the practice-based thesis include a heavily documented practical element in correlation with a shorter written component (30-80,000 words). Within the limits of these parameters, this research offers completed stained glass windows and a written thesis that includes insights from those projects, plus three chapters on: the material of glass, the space of the window, and the implications of being stained and a main conclusion that ties those elements together contributing to the overall thesis question: can art help us see with compassion that leads to care. Three institutions now have an original work of art substantiated by written theory, and the submitted thesis is substantiated by works of art viewable on different continents.

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