The Stained Glass Windows in Bales Recital Hall
by Peter Thompson
We decided early in the planning of the recital hall that stained glass would be included if at all possible. However, it was not until after the architect's drawings were complete and the window openings established that it was suggested that I might work on a design for the glass. I found the prospect both exciting and intimidating. Because the construction drawings had to be prepared, structural window frames had be located prior to any extensive designing of the glass. Initially a source of frustration, this essentially backward process resulted in the specific design solution and defined the character of the work.
Establishing the location of the frames was a simple problem of proportional relationship, and early possib ilities included some rather whimsical experiments with the Fibonacci Series (1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, ...) and the Golden Section (a: b = b: a+b). When I shared these early ideas with Jim Higdon, he produced several publications detailing the use of the Gold en Section in music composition, most notably by Bartok. This was the connection that I had been missing, and the Golden Section became the genesis of both the specific linear structure and the rhythmic character of the design.
In the two outer rectangles, the horizontal divisions of the grid (12" and 8") were determined by my choice of 8"x12"xl" dalle glass. I selected this glass for its intensity of color and visual substance, and I wanted to retain some of the character of the uncut glass in the work. The various vertical divisions of the grid were determined by the glass dimensions, by Golden Section measurements, or by intuition. The curved linear elements are all arcs/spirals generated by the G.S. The main horizontal brace in the rectangular panels is located to form a Golden Rectangle in the bottom section; the upper section is a Golden Rectangle plus a vertical panel the same width as the tall center window. The three center vertical panels establish a third Golden Rectangle. Hence, the structural frames are all located according to the G.S., and they echo the proportions of the tall center window as well. Finally, a simple iteration of the Golden Rectangle can be seen in the curved pipe railing behind the org an bench.
I was apprehensive about the interrupted views of the windows from inside the hall, but that has turned out to be one of the most fascinating aspects of the work; I attribute this to the subtle but constant order in the parts/whole inherent in the Golden Section.
My approach to the organ pipe shades was simple enough, although the entire project turned out to be much more difficult for me than the windows. I took the areas of the case that were to be embellished, and determined the specific ways in which the G.S. fit, or did not fit, within the overall case geometry. To a greater degree than in the windows, I relied on intuitive judgment to develop the overall patterns of the design. The harmony/discord resulting from the use of G.S. ratios within the unrelated geometry of the case produced a design of curiously unpredictable tension and energy. The same stained mahogany of the case was selected for the linear elements mounted against a light butternut for color contrast.
I must mention that the craftsmen at Hopcro ft Stained Glass and at Wolff & Associates have done superb work in translating my drawings into reality. I am most fortunate to have had the opportunity to contribute on a personal level to this project and to have my work represented in this wonderful ar chitectural setting, energized by the glorious sound of the Wolff organ.
About the Artist
Peter Thompson holds a B.F.A. degree from the Rhode Island School of Design and the M.F.A. from Yale University. He is currently professor of art at the University of Kansas. Formerly he has served as dean and associate dean of the School of Fine Arts and chair of the Department of Painting and Sculpture.
Thompson has exhibited art works at the Spencer Museum of Art, the Art and Design Gallery, the SUA Gallery, the Chancellor's Residence, and the Spooner Museum at the University of Kansas. His work has also appeared at the Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of American Art, the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters in New York, Southwest Missouri State University, the Hays Art Center Gallery, the American Institute of Architects in Kansas City, the Art Studio Gallery in Hunstville, Texas, and the Public Library and Jewish Community Center in Kansas City.
Among the many administrative and service activities which Thompson has pursued throughout his career are the following chair of the Lied Center Planning Committee, member of the Hall Center Executive Committee, the Advisory Council for the Kansas Cultural Trust, the Capitol Dome Sculpture Advisory Committee, the Committee on Art in Public Places, and the Lawrence Arts Center Expansion Committee.
Recently, Thompson served as the chair of the Bales Recital Hall Planning Committee. He designed the stained glass windows for the hall and the case carvings which appear on the organ.