With nature as her muse, stained glass artist Hallie Monroe recently completed two ground-breaking autonomous panels. The first references a recent study on octopus intelligence. It depicts her imaginings of what cephalopods could do with the car keys, sunglasses and smartphones routinely dropped overboard and into the ocean by humans. The other illustrates the heart-wrenching effects of 2019’s summer fires on the world’s wildlife.
“These are not your grandmother’s church windows. I wanted to explore topics that go beyond the blonde Jesus interpretations I have painted so many times to speak about modern topics of climate change and society.”
A graduate of the Pratt Institute with a BFA in Illustration, Monroe’s experience as a glass painter is vast and includes All Saints Episcopal Church’s Chapel of Ease in Barbados (2006 – 2009); Conrad Pickel Studios, Vero Beach, Florida, where she worked on one of the largest stained glass windows in the US for Hendricks Avenue Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Florida (summer 2009); and Willet Hauser Architectural Glass (2010- 2014). Over the years, the artist has also painted for many freelance clients including Holdman Studios, Lehi, Utah; the Art of Glass, Media, Pennsylvania; Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut; The Gil Studio, Brooklyn, New York; Serpentino Stained & Leaded Glass, Needham, Massachusetts; and Sunlites Stained Glass, Far Rockaway, New York.
Monroe’s process and techniques are basically the same whether painting liturgical work or creating personal autonomous panels. She begins by standing sheets of glass around her studio, allowing color and texture to interact with different light and inspire a design. In her work, Red Elephant, the artist utilized acid etching on red flashed glass in a protest against the slaughter of these animals for their ivory tusks. Silver stain was expertly applied to produce a glowing effect used in combination with the angle of the elephant charging to heighten the urgency of the message.
In another work, Owl in the Birches, Monroe relied upon Catspaw glass to create the dappled green background that so vividly conveys sunlight in the forest. This panel was exhibited in American Glass Now: 2014, the American Glass Guild’s (AGG) annual juried show held at the Glencairn Museum in Bryn Athyn, Pennsylvania, from May 1 to June 30, 2014.
Semi-photorealistic portraits comprise a large percentage of both her personal and liturgical painting. “People of color are rarely depicted in stained glass, and I wanted to change that.”
The recipient of the AGG Scholarship, Monroe also received two grants from the Stained Glass Association of America (SGAA). The 2009 SGAA Elskus Scholarship enabled her to take a 12-day stained glass tour of southern France given by author and guide, David Wilde.
After 30 years of running her studio in Southampton, New York, Monroe recently relocated and opened Twin Elms Stained Glass Studio at Pittsford Village Farm, Pittsford, Vermont. An experienced instructor, Monroe has taught workshops at St. Michael’s Institute, Mystic, Connecticut; Amagansett Applied Art School, Amagansett, New York; Guild Hall, East Hampton, New York; and the 2019AGG conference held in San Antonio, Texas. In 2020, the artist will teach workshops at Yestermorrow Building Arts School, Waitsfield, Vermont, and out of her own studio.
In discussions about why stained glass has not found its place in art galleries, lack of content in the work is cited as a primary factor. This is closely followed by the challenges of exhibiting an art form with an absolute dependence on natural light. Monroe accepts the inherent limitations of her medium and with a masterful painter’s hand, blurs the lines between art and craft in profound images of our vanishing natural world.
“The public still thinks of stained glass as church windows. Architects using stained glass windows in ways outside of that definition and artists like myself showing in galleries so people can see the work outside of a church setting, will build new audiences for autonomous works in glass.”