Judith Schaechter's "The Battle of Carnival and Lent"

‘The Path to Paradise: Judith Schaechter’s Stained-Glass Art’

The Toledo Museum of Art spotlights the artist’s colorful and thought-provoking works in an upcoming fall exhibition

The first surprise you’ll notice about Judith Schaechter’s stained-glass panels is that they’re nothing like the Biblical-themed ones crafted by 12th-century artists for medieval European cathedrals or the nature-inspired pieces Louis Tiffany made popular a century or so ago. Look closer and you’ll be riveted by the cast of oddly eclectic characters the Philadelphia artist has infused her work with. They symbolize a panoply of life’s contradictions: beauty versus gore, life versus death, romance versus violence.

From Oct. 3 through Jan. 3, the Toledo Museum of Art is presenting “The Path to Paradise: Judith Schaechter’s Stained-Glass Art,” which showcases more than 40 of her scenes, along with the drawings that led to them.

“Some people say they border on darkness,” Schaechter says. “But my intention is not to add to the gross domestic misery of our world. Like so many of us, I’ve had issues with my psyche that needed resolution. I have found that expressing what you’re feeling makes you feel better and hope the vast majority who see [the works] can relate to the personalities I’ve created.”

Schaechter, who grew up in Newton, Massachusetts, enrolled at the Rhode Island School of Design with the intention of honing the painting skills she’d learned from her grandmother. But after taking a peek inside the glass-making studio, the artist couldn’t help but be intrigued.

“I knew immediately I wanted to give it a try,” she says. “In painting class, I was encouraged to ‘find my voice.’ I couldn’t, so I would paint my canvases willy-nilly, paint over what wasn’t working, and then I’d be looking at a blank canvas again and feel like I wasn’t getting anywhere. Working with glass slowed me down, and that was important.”

Describing her creations as “happy accidents,” Schaechter’s designs are the result of the doodling she does while watching TV, during meetings or in chunks of free time.

“I’ve come to notice the word ‘draw’ means to ‘pull,’ ’’ the artist explains. “I don’t have visions and make pictures of them. What I’m doing is pulling these characters out of my head.” 2445 Monroe St., Toledo 43620, 419/255-8000, toledomuseum.org