Telling a story of light and symbolism, illustration and illumination

HOME EXTERIORS BY JAIX CHAIX

It’s a bit perplexing. Windows are at once part of the exterior and part of the interior. They allow us to look outside from the inside, and inside from the outside. But no matter the perspective, light shining through windows seems somehow different in the winter. And it is.

Despite some common misconceptions, the axis of the earth always points in the same direction (it doesn’t change) and the sun is actually closer to the earth in the winter (than in summer). Skipping the science, and putting aside things ecliptic and analemma, the sun shines more directly on the Southern Hemisphere – and indirectly on the Northern Hemisphere – during the winter in Montana.

Consequently, summer light can seem more intense, and winter light more interesting. And the diffused light of winter is perhaps no more inspiring than passing through a stained-glass window.

Indeed, light passing through stained glass can tell a story in light and symbolism, illustration and illumination. Perhaps that’s why stained glass was considered the most significant form of illustrative art during medieval times. And, ironically, even in the Dark Ages, light continued to shine through stained glass, depicting mostly religious ideals (or consequences).

A stained-glass panel by local Flathead Valley artist Christine Langdon, based upon a Scandavian design. Langdon has been creating stained-glass art for more than 20 years. She designs custom pieces and can be reached at her Kalispell studio: (406) 257-6314. Photo by Jaix Chaix

A stained-glass panel by local Flathead Valley artist Christine Langdon, based upon a Scandavian design. Langdon has been creating stained-glass art for more than 20 years. She designs custom pieces and can be reached at her Kalispell studio: (406) 257-6314. Photo by Jaix Chaix

Centuries later, stained-glass windows became distinctive appointments in many homes throughout the Flathead Valley. While religious motifs are mainstays of places of worship, and common in homes of the devout, secular scenes and geometric abstractions were also once vogue. And many original stained-glass windows can still be found in many historic homes throughout the Flathead.

As with other arts and mediums that draw inspiration from the majestic surroundings of the valley, stained-glass windows provide metaphor and symbolism in often dramatic, stained-glass works.

It’s not uncommon to find bears and buffaloes, eagles and elk, mountains and moose in naturalist, stained-glass depictions. Meanwhile, more abstract, geometric stained-glass patterns reflect and can seem to refract winter light in unintended, if not unimagined, ways.

Stained-glass windows can be found at churches and prestigious homes, as expected. But stained-glass windows can also be found in fun and unexpected places as well. For example, the next time you’re at Brannigan’s Pub in Kalispell (at 101 East Center St.) take a look around, or look up if you’re walking by the KM Building.

And aside from adorning abodes, there’s the very craft of stained glass itself. Stained-glass artists and artistry form a niche in the Flathead Valley, as several stained-glass studios, workshops and classes attest.

And whether a masterpiece perfected by an experienced stained-glass artist, or a prized creation of a first-time student, the light passing through a stained-glass window in the winter can be hypnotic. For depending upon the time of day and the manner of light, stained-glass windows seem to come to life, or at least never reveal themselves the same way twice.

And winter light provides yet another dimension of interest. For example, there’s hardly a moment much like sitting beside a fire and looking up at the exact moment light filters through a stained-glass window – and frost. The interplay and intricacies of such light can be mesmerizing and memorable (if not surreal).

Yet no matter the weather outside, winter light seems to inspire deep hues of blue, exciting reds and evocative greens – the kind you just don’t see any other time of year.

And whether it’s an abstract pattern set in a small frame meant to inspire a lonely nook, or a paneled logo of a preferred libation (or other adored icon), or a natural scene sprawling across several panes, winter light filtered through stained-glass can inspire awe – albeit it ever-so fleeting.

Stained glass artist Christine Langdon used color, texture, luminescence, and glass beads to create depth and ever-changing dimension in this 5-foot-long depiction of vikings ashore. This is a centerpiece of several works Langdon created for a Scandinavian-themed home in the Flathead Valley. Photo by Jaix Chaix

Stained glass artist Christine Langdon used color, texture, luminescence, and glass beads to create depth and ever-changing dimension in this 5-foot-long depiction of vikings ashore. This is a centerpiece of several works Langdon created for a Scandinavian-themed home in the Flathead Valley. Photo by Jaix Chaix