Kogel documents the extensive stained glass of Michigan’s Grosse Pointe Memorial Church in her debut photography book.
Readers in this literate age may forget how important religious art was for centuries of parishioners, as it illustrated for them the stories and symbols of their faith and embodied the concepts they believed in. Stained glass is perhaps the most sublime example—a marriage of color and light that seems to emanate the very notion of grace. Grosse Pointe Memorial Church, a neo-Gothic Presbyterian church in a Detroit suburb, contains an array of translucent stained-glass windows created by the Willet Stained Glass and Decorating Company from the 1920s to the ’60s. Inspired by the storyboard windows of European churches, such as France’s Chartres Cathedral, the Willets led a revival of translucent stained glass, instead of using the opalescent glass that was popular at the time, and created narrative window pieces for many American churches. To move from window to window is to observe the theology and symbology of Christianity, from the Old Testament to the New, through the European Middle Ages and into the North American period. Presbyterian minister Kogel serves as both a photographer and historian, presenting brilliant full-color shots of the glasswork as well as accompanying information on relevant biblical passages and religious traditions. She shares the Willets’ passion for comprehensive narrative and their belief that religious art exists not simply to inspire and to awe, but also to teach. In addition to her own photographs, Kogel provides comparative examples from art history, as well as some of the original Willet drafts. The result is reminiscent of the illuminated manuscripts of the Middle Ages: photography and text in equal parts, both in the service of communicating a religion’s central ideas. The details of each window piece, and the enthusiasm Kogel displays in celebrating them, will deepen readers’ appreciation for the work of all parties involved. Is the Grosse Pointe church the Sainte-Chapelle? No, but this book is a wonderful testament to a great achievement of American stained glass.
A striking volume of remarkable art and informative commentary.