April 22, 2020

“Path to Paradise” at University of Rochester’s Memorial Art Gallery @ Hyperallergic

ROCHESTER, New York —  Judith Schaechter’s stained glass works reach so far in different directions that trying to classify them becomes a taxonomy problem. Her medium, techniques, and references are deeply rooted in Medieval and Renaissance art, but her execution, agenda, and subject matter are unusual for stained glass. Her work is based in craft, but her finished products are highly conceptual. Her imagery and symbols are both personal and universal. Even the title of her retrospective at the University of Rochester’s Memorial Art Gallery, Path to Paradise, contains a kind of contradiction, alluding to a quote from Dante’s Divine Comedy: The path to paradise begins in hell.

Religious rapture is an excellent frame through which to view Schaechter’s stained glass compositions — most of which are not windows, but light boxes. (Even those that begin as windows eventually become light boxes.) MAG’s Curator in Charge/Curator of American Art, Jessica Marten, developed the retrospective with Schaechter over the past four years. This show furthers Marten’s reputation — acquired with a 2018 retrospective of Rochester artist Josephine Tota — as a champion of weird, ecstatic, preternaturally driven female artists. In Marten’s lecture on Path to Paradise, she beautifully delineated Schaechter’s knack for deeply transforming her references into expressions of personal experience and handwork. It is the kind of devotion to practice that lifts art from profession to calling.

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