Posts Tagged ‘Chemung River’

The Stained Glass Bridge- Thomas Buechner

We are heading off this morning for a memorial service for the late  Tom Buechner, a man of many talents ( including those as an artist, writer, curator, art historian and teacher) who passed away on June 13th.  The memorial is being held at the beautiful Christ Episcopal Church in Corning which, with its great stained glass windows, brings to mind one of Tom’s dreams that never reached fruition, unfortunately.

The Chemung River cuts the city of Corning into two halves and there are two active bridges that span the often lazy river.  There is also a third bridge, the old Centerway Bridge that sits right next to the newer Centerway Bridge, that was built in the 1970’s, leaving the old bridge to sit idly by acting only as a wide pedestrian bridge between the downtown Market Street district on one side and the Corning Museum of Glass on the other. 

Buechner saw this idle bridge and its scenic perch above the river as a waste of an asset.  In his creative mind he saw it as something more, as a foundation for a structure rising from it, one that would celebrate Corning’s glass heritage and fame.  Stained glass, in particular.  He saw the bridge holding a world class museum and facility for the study of stained glass, a natural extension of the present Glass Museum which draws glass scholars from all over the world.

It would sit above the river and have glass panels on each side that would permit the freeflow of light through the panels on display, giving the outside of the building a colorful gleam.  At night, it would glow above the river in the glorious colors of so many stained glass windows.  It would have been quite a sight to see and would have become, no doubt, a great addition to Corning’s lure as a tourist destination.

But it was a big dream for this small city and never came about.  Money, structural concerns, etc.  They all conspired to leave the stained glass bridge as a seed in Tom Buechner’s mind.  This past year, at his October exhibit at the West End Gallery in Corning, he displayed the painting above which showed his concept for the museum.  I remember being excited at seeing this piece because the idle bridge always seemed to be sitting there, waiting to be transformed into something.  A phoenix hovering in the ashes.

There’s still hope that someone will recognize the beauty of this dream and let the phoenix rise.  But it’s doubtful now that Tom has passed, taking with him his vision and his passion.  But at least the idea and the dream still remain. 

Imagine a lazy summer evening and, as dusk breaks, the deep colors of many stained glass windows cast their rich light over the river …

Present Day Old Centerway Bridge in Painting from Tom Buechner

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Studio In the WoodsI’m showing the picture to the right to illustrate a bit of advice I often give when speaking with students or aspiring painters.  This is my first studio which is located up a slight hill behind our home, nestled in among a mixed forest of hardwoods and white pine.  This photo was from last February.  It was a fine little space although it lacked certain amenities such as running water, bathrooms and truly sufficient heat.  However, it served me very well for about a decade.

The advice that I give to aspiring artists is this:  Learn to be alone.  

The time spent in solitude  may be the greatest challenge that many artists face.  I have talked to many over the years and it is a common concern.  Some never fully commit to their art for just this reason.  To be alone with your own thoughts without the feedback or interaction of others can be scary especially for those used to being immersed in people and conversation.

I like to think that I have been prepared for this aspect of this career since I was a child.  For much of my youth we lived  in the country,  in houses that were isolated from neighbors.  I had a sister and brother, 7 and 8 years my senior,  and they were often my companions at times but  as they came into their middle teens I spent more and more time alone.  This is not a complaint.  Actually, it was kind of idyllic.  I lived a fairly independent life as a kid, coming and going as I pleased.  I explored the hills and woods around us, going down old trails to the railroad and cove that ran along side the Chemung River.  I studied the headstones at an old cemetery tucked in the edge of the woods overlooking what was then a thick glen, filled with the family who resided at a late 1700’s homesite that had stood across the road from our home.  All that remained was a stacked stone chimney which served as a great prop for playing cowboy.  

In the woods there were immense downed trees that served as magnificent pirate ships.  There were large hemlocks with thick horizontal branches that were practically ladders, easy to climb and sit above the forest floor to watch and dream.  

My life would be very different without this time alone.  Sure, maybe I’d be a bit more sociable and comfortable with groups of people, something which is sometimes a hindrance.  But it prepared me for the time I spend alone and allowed me to create my own world that I occupied then and now.  The same world that appears in my work.  That is my work. 

This is only a short post on a subject I could drone on about for pages and pages.  But, to aspiring artists, I say learn to love your time alone and realize what a luxury and an asset it can be.  Your work will grow from your time alone.

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