I have always been fascinated by stained glass. It’s a secret love of mine–something I find hypnotic, and sacred. Growing up in the Catholic church, maybe it’s indoctrinated. As an artist, there is an incredible beauty and technicality to the art of stained glass that I look at with the same shock and awe with which I view the universe. Vast, expansive, but infinitely intimate and detailed. Holy Frit documents all of these beautiful facets of stained glass, via a very special and ambitious project taken on by Judson Studios in Los Angeles.
Led by the artistic prowess of charming creator Tim Carey, Judson Studios took on the most ambitious, and largest stained glass window in the world, for the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Leawood Kansas. Celebrating leaders of the Church, from Adam and Eve through to Martin Luther King Jr. and Billy Graham, and centered around a huge, open-armed image of Christ, the window tells the story of three gardens–from Eden, to Gethsemane, into the future of what the church hopes to be. A glorious, awe-inspiring image regardless of your religious leanings, the sheer magnitude of this piece had never before been attempted by any glass makers.
Enter Tim Carey, with his incredible design. One small problem–his design requires a technique in glassmaking that only sort of, kind of, theoretically exists. Tim sets to work, contacting world-renowned artist Narcissus Quagliata. He developed, in his vast and expansive career, a way to fuse different colors of glass without requiring lead barriers between them–something that should by all rights be scientifically impossible. Tim and Narcissus develop an unlikely and sometimes troubled camaraderie, sometimes butting heads, but often sharing an awestruck respect for one another, as they get to work creating something the world has never seen before.
The undeniable charm of Carey is a throughline that keeps us as the audience invested in Holy Frit–named, by the way, for a type of glass powder used to create the unique fusing techniques used in the window. His humor and grace under fire is something to be admired, especially as he faces sudden obstacles, from financial strain to suddenly being unable to get the glasses he needs. Over one hundred panels make up this window and Carey and Quagliata take on every single one nearly single handedly. The Judson team is like a ship’s crew caught in one hell of a storm. If only the huge, looming yet comforting Christ figure at the center of the window would come to life and calm the waters.
Equal parts loving and antagonistic, Quagliata and Carey’s relationship vacillates between mentor and mentee, father and son, and mortal enemies from minute to minute. Each an unbelievable artist, each stubborn, each intensely serious about their work. Their working relationship isn’t always easy, but what it leads to is art unlike anything ever seen before.
Holy Frit is charming, honest, candid, and celebratory. Shining a bright, multicolored light on an art form that is almost unknown by most, and certainly not understood. I found myself inspired–as an artist, as a spiritualist, as a creator, and as a viewer. Holy Frit is nearly as beautiful and inspiring as the window it’s about and left me with the same sparkling-eyed, smiling and joyful awe as every one of the 12,000 visitors to the Church of the Resurrection since the window was unveiled in 2017.
Holy Frit played at Slamdance 2021.
9.5 out of 10 Stained Glass Stars