Ellen Mandelbaum creates environments in stained glass that inspire connection between the viewer and the serenity of the spiritual world. Painting with light not only allowed her to transcend art glass limitations, but offered a broader concept for expanding artistic vision in the medium.
After receiving her MFA in painting in 1963 from Indiana University, Mandelbaum worked for several years as a painter, educator and lecturer before developing an interest in stained glass. In 1975, her studies in leaded glass began in earnest at the now defunct Stained Glass School in North Adamas, Massachusetts. By the mid 1980s, Mandelbaum had studied in workshops with such well-known masters as Ludwig Schaffrath, Johannes Schreiter, Jochem Poengsen, Albinas Elskus, Ray King and Ed Carpenter.
Having learned the basic skills of leaded glass, Mandelbaum found herself wanting more fluid motion and softness in her work. The pathway to breaking free of rigid lead line confines was to paint on the glass, techniques she learned from Elskus, who encouraged her to paint in a more personal way. Becoming a member of the Glass Painting Society, founded by John Nussbaum, introduced her to other glass painters with new ideas and approaches, and pushed the artist to further explore free expression using glass paints.
From the beginning, Mandelbaum’s primary interest was the architectural use of stained glass, though throughout her career she designed and exhibited exquisite autonomous pieces, such as Martinique. She says: “I sat on the edge of a dock, plein air painting like Monet. This piece was painted from life with special glass paint and glass I’d brought from Queens, New York, wrapped in newspaper and nestled in the clothes in my suitcase. Miraculously it made it home unbroken where I could fire it in the traditional way – in my kiln at 1200 degrees.” Bold, often geometric designs appeared in concert with expressive free-hand use of paints, stain or enamels. Mandelbaum made use of clear and light tints to enable what was beyond the stained glass to play a role in her designs. Her aesthetic signature, painted elements interacted with what was occurring in the view beyond.
Exhibited internationally, Mandelbaum’s autonomous panels have been featured in several one-person exhibitions at the Queens College Art Center in Flushing, New York, and in a couple of one-person shows at Gallery35 in Manhattan. A member of the Women’s International Glass Workshop since its inception, in 2016 the artist participated in the group show La Grange Aux Verrieres- Lumiere Visible, in Saint-Hilaire-en-Lignieres, France.
Mandelbaum is internationally recognized for her innovative stained glass commissions including installations for the Queens College Art Center, the Marian Woods Retirement Facility in Hartsdale, New York, and a 30-foot high window for the South Carolina Aquarium, Charleston, South Carolina. Liturgical projects include: Temple Beth Shalom, Annapolis, Maryland, 2014; Kol Shalom Synagogue, Rockville, Maryland, 2012; and Adath Jeshurun Synagogue, Minnetonka, Minnesota, for which she was presented with the 1997 American Institute of Architects (AIA) Religious Art Award.
In 2014, Mandelbaum was accredited as an Artist/Designer by the Stained Glass Association of America (SGAA). Two years later, she was appointed Senior Advisor for the American Glass Guild. Other awards include the Ahavas Sholom Honorable Mention Award for Design Excellence, Newark, New Jersey, 2014, and the Williamsburg Art & Historical Society’s 16th Anniversary Grand Harvest Award for Excellence, 2012.
In 2019, Mandelbaum received the SGAA’s Lifetime Achievement Award for Education. Her teaching experiences include the instruction of glass painting at the SGAA Stained Glass School, Raytown, Missouri; and in New York at Hunter College, Pace University, and the Whitney Museum of American Art. In 2020, the artist will teach long weekend workshops at her Long Island City Studio. A class including Bruce Buchanan, this year’s James Whitney Scholarship recipient, was rescheduled, hopefully for September 4, 5, 6. Check her website, ellenmandelbaum.com for the latest updates.