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Remembered Light: Glass Fragments from World War II

TACOMA, WA.-The Washington State History Museum is the first museum to host Remembered Light: Glass Fragments from World War II, The McDonald Windows, a new exhibit of glass art pieces featuring shards of stained glass from European sanctuaries damaged or destroyed during World War II. The exhibit will be on view January 12, 2008 through March 2, 2008.

U.S. Army Chaplain Frederick A. McDonald gathered more than 300 stained glass shards from the rubble of war-shattered churches and a synagogue as he traveled with General Omar Bradley’s 12th Army Group from 1944 to 1945. For the next 55 years, the glass fragments remained under McDonald’s bed in a cardboard box. One evening in 1999, during a dinner party with friends, Seattle-born McDonald shared the story of the glass shards. One of the dinner guests contacted Reflection Studios, a nationally renowned stained-glass studio. Stained-glass artist Armelle Le Roux then met with McDonald and what ensued were a great friendship and an ambitious project to turn the glass fragments into pieces of art, each telling the story of World War II through McDonald’s eyes.

McDonald worked with glass artists from around the world until his death in 2002, providing inspiration and focus to turn shards of stained glass into beautiful windows through which light would once again shine. With Le Roux as the project leader, the artists incorporated the shards and McDonald’s recollections into windows and other works, each offering a snapshot of McDonald’s experiences in war-torn Europe. The project was finally completed in 2006.

In all, 13 artists created 25 windows and other glass art pieces in diverse media including ceramic, silk screen, vinyl, copper, and glass. Their work takes a range of forms and dimensions, varying from a 9 x 14-inch glass book by Le Roux, its shard from an unknown site, to a 41 x 30-inch crown of thorns created in antique glass by Narcissus Quagliata, with shards from the Cathedral of St. Stephen in Metz, France. Artists include: Craig Clemens, Joseph Distefano, Peter K. Eichhorn, Misty Gamble, Constance Levathes, Ariana Makau, Narcissus Quagliata, Alan Rhodes, Robert Shank, Irmigard Steding, and Daniel Ziegler.

Frederick A. McDonald was born in Seattle in 1908. A graduate of the General Seminary of the Episcopal Church, his early pastoral vocation took him from Rhode Island to Washington and Oregon. After attending the Chaplain School at Harvard University in 1942, McDonald served at Fort Mason, in San Francisco, and was subsequently posted to General Omar Bradley’s 12th Army Group. He taught at Biarritz Army University in France before returning to America after the war. McDonald’s last parish assignment was at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in San Francisco, where he lived during the last two decades of his life.

Remembered Light: Glass Fragments from World War II, The McDonald Windows was developed by the Frederick A. McDonald Foundation. After a national tour, the exhibit will be permanently housed at the Presidio Main Post Interfaith Chapel in San Francisco.

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