Judith Schaechter Is Doin’ Time in Philly

Judith Schaechter’s killer new series, The Battle of Carnival and Lent, are being exhibited at Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia, PA.  It consists of 17 stained glass windows – inspired by the prison’s dark past and installed in historic skylights throughout Cellblocks 8, 11, and 14. 
The Battle of Carnival and Lent responds to the penitentiary’s narrow skylights and arched windows. The imagery, which Ms. Schaechter describes as “addressing in a non-religious way the psychological border territory between ‘spiritual aspiration’ and human suffering,” is evocative of theology but secular in purpose. The figures depicted are literally confined by the unnaturally tall and skinny apertures of the window frames – squished, cropped, straining, and reaching – as a representation of the types of incarceration that are basic to the human experience. Ms. Schaechter balances them with more traditional, cathedral-esque stained glass windows. Her intention is to draw an association between the prison’s original purpose – to provide an environment conducive to self-reflection and, ultimately, penance – and the harsh realities of solitary confinement.

Ms. Schaechter’s past work has almost entirely been installed in museums and galleries as panels over lightboxes. The Battle of Carnival and Lent is unique for both its response to a specific environment as well as for its use of full-spectrum light to illuminate the windows. 

Ms. Schaechter is often asked which architectural setting she sees as ideal for her work, and her response is always the same… Eastern State Penitentiary. Explains Ms. Schaechter, “ESP is precious to me. It’s my hometown. It’s my place.”

The installation will be on view from April 1st through November 30, 2012, with a reception on May 11th. We sure wish we go!

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