Architectural glass artist Elizabeth Devereaux traveled across the globe looking for an international education in art and architecture, from San Rafael to Vienna, then Munich. She founded her California studio in 1969, and more than 50 years later is an accomplished architectural glass artist with works installed all over the US and Canada.
Devereaux states: “In an architectural setting, I always like to work in a site-specific way, noting the place and region itself, as well as the architectural style the artwork is in, the light, the interior and exterior environment. I work collaboratively, which then requires me to listen to the client/committee’s story, to define their identity and understand what has meaning for them, and then to synthesize all of the information within my own style and artistic vision.”
One of Devereaux’s most notable liturgical commissions, Christ Cathedral Memorial Gardens, Garden Grove, California, is located at an architectural pilgrimage destination. The Cathedral buildings are designed by three of the 20th century’s most significant architects – Philip Johnson, Richard Neutra, and Richard Meier. The new Memorial Gardens’ focus was to be “The Risen Christ” worshiped by two angels. It needed to be highly visible from the exterior, giving reference to life’s journey and connecting Baptism (in the Cathedral) to death and resurrection (in the Mausoleum). Relying on reflective light, 24-carat gold luster paint allowed the windows to be clearly seen from the Cathedral opposite, as well as in the Mausoleum, which was flanked by 12 large panels of amber stained and shaded clear glass. These 12 panels were fabricated by Derix Studio in Germany; the rest of the commission was fabricated in Devereaux’s Chico studio. Forty-four clerestory windows created in mouthblown cobalt streaky on clear German Lamberts glass link the interior rooms. Between each are prisms referring to the tower at the Cathedral.
In another major liturgical project, at Our Lady of New Clairvaux Abbey, Vina, California, Devereaux expressed The Cistercian charism of simplicity in a contemporary style with a reference to its ancient history. The new monastery at New Clairvaux was originally a 12th-century monastery in Northern Spain. In the early 1930s William Randolph Hearst bought the monastery and imported it to California. Shortly afterwards, the Great Depression and World War II made it impossible for Hearst to build it, and he deeded it to the City of San Francisco. There it languished for 40 years behind the De Young Museum until Father Thomas Davis, a young monk newly arrived to the New Clairvaux Monastery, heard the story and had a vision of acquiring the stones for the new Abbey. The Abbey consulted with British and Spanish historians, and hired German stone carvers to re-form and recut the missing stones.
The art glass in 12-century European Cistercian monasteries is abstract, simple, and often soft amber and white in color. Devereaux’s windows appear simple at first glance, but in fact, are complex in their fabrication. The Fremont Antique glass was custom mouthblown to shade from white opak to clear, allowing the exterior landscape to be part of the design. It was also painted and kiln-fired with amber stain, then intersected vertically with handmade prisms. Since the monks worship during the day and night, the artist painted and fired a reflective 24-carat gold luster pattern onto the surface, bringing the translation of New Clairvaux or “Valley of Light” to life.
In San Francisco, for Noe Valley Ministry’s Coming to the Center window, Devereaux selected triple-flashed, mouth-blown glass, which was etched to the clear layer to portray the constellations. The transition from “sky” to “center” was accomplished by selecting custom blown rose to clear and purple to aqua glass. This allowed the glass to be sprayed and fired with orange luster, creating the subtle transition from lavender to amber. The amber “center” was leaded and laminated front and back with lead “overlay” “branches” to reference beloved artist Ruth Azawa’s twig-like cross in the sanctuary. The center spiral links to the labyrinth in the space.
Devereaux explains: “I always loved transparency—working with watercolor, silkscreen, overlaying color. When I discovered glass, I realized the incredible aspects of painting with light. Mouth-blown textures and color can be designed to meet direct sunlight and be projected in mysterious ways across the interior space. Or if the window is facing an unwanted view, it is possible to use translucent glass, allowing light in, but not the view or the glare. I also love the use of reflective materials, polished metals, in conjunction with glass, but sometimes mirror, and 24-carat gold, silver, and platinum lusters sprayed and fired onto glass. This allows the window to have a nightlife, different from the day. I also love pattern, making a “logo” or distillation of the meaning of the commission, then repeating it into a fabric woven into the artwork.”
Devereaux has always been active in her architectural and liturgical communities, serving on the National Advisory Board of Interfaith Forum on Religion, Art, and Architecture (IFRAA), a Knowledge Community of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) from 2009- 2014 and as a Juror for Faith & Forum/ IFRAA Religious Art & Awards, Seattle, WA, 2005. Her own IFRAA and Faith and Form awards include: 2018 Honor Award for Religious Art in New Clairvaux Abbey, Vina, CA; 2018 Codaworx Liturgical Art Award, Holy Family Catholic Church, Fond du Lac, WI.; 2008 Design Merit Award, St. Maximilian Kolbe, Westlake Village, CA; 2006 Design Honor Award, Blessed Trinity, Frankenmuth, MI; 1992 Visual Arts Award, St. Joseph Cathedral, San Jose, CA. She has also been presented with Ministry & Liturgy Annual Visual Art Awards, Bene & Best of Show in 2008, 2005, 2003, 2000, 1999, 1998, 1997, 1996, 1994, 1992.
Devereaux’s non-liturgical commissions are numerous and include New Mexico Behavioral Health Institute, Las Vegas, New Mexico, for which she won a Public Art Award; George Sim Community Center, Sacramento, California, Public Art Award; and Chico City Plaza, Chico, California, Design consultant team and Public Art Award. Her present commission is Dignity French Hospital Swanson Chapel in San Luis Obispo, CA, and includes 700 square feet of laminated art glass.
Devereaux and her studio crew – Owen Gabbert, longtime project manager, Marie Swanson, Devereaux’s son, Chris Tallant, and nephew, Abraham Devereaux – are responsible for many public art, hospital, and corporate commissions. Though her studio’s main focus remains liturgical commissions, every window designed is site specific and custom made for that specific place. Devereaux knows how to listen and let inspiration find her, in a melding of her talent with the soul of each location.