Resembling a pregray Jerry Garcia, with bushy hair held in place by a modish black and white bandana, stained glass artist Glenn Greene sees his craft as much more than synagogue windows and historical pictorial images.
While much of his business comes from traditional custom work, such as designing windows for Temple Ohav Shalom in Allison Park, or creating a large installation atop the Cathedral of Learning, Greene also loves crafting pieces simply to please himself.
“I’m a prolific artist,” said Greene. “Where a painter might just pick up his brush and paint because he’s inspired, I do a lot of pieces just because I’m very inspired.”
Greene’s studio, a 100-year-old warehouse on South Braddock Avenue in Regent Square, is filled with brightly colored, brilliantly designed, mostly abstract glass panels.
Greene began his stained glass apprenticeship in Cleveland in 1979, as a teenager. He will be celebrating 30 years of practicing his craft at a show this weekend at his studio.
So, how does a 15-year-old Jewish boy get interested in stained glass?
“I grew up with a guy that did it,” Greene said. “He was our upstairs neighbor. My mom took the class, and when I became a teenager, that’s where I got a job.”
“I was a busboy and a dishwasher for a semester. That’s when I knew I needed another job,” Greene quipped.
Aside from the busboy stint, Greene has spent his entire career in the stained glass business. And his work defies the stereotypical norms of the art.
“Stained glass has been so stigmatized by history,” Greene said, citing the common association of the art to traditional churches, and “cheesy” pieces. “I’m thinking way outside the box. It’s more like original artwork that’s exciting and different, and doesn’t pooh-pooh old styles, but shoots them out of the cannon into a whole new artistic realm.”
Greene is proud of his work and his accomplishments over the past 30 years.
“I’ve been too modest too long,” he said. “I don’t really toot my own horn, but the proof’s in the pudding.”
Indeed, from very large, intricate pieces that one could spend hours examining, to his collection of “The Great 48,” a set of smaller framed pieces ranging in textures and tones, Greene’s work is beautiful.
“In ’95, I put my foot down and stopped worrying about what people would like and started pleasing myself,” Greene said. “I never looked back.”
Today, Greene tries to focus on socially relevant themes that call for “basic social common sense.”
He strives to find the timelessness in his art, and not just “rest on the laurels that it is fun to look at glass.”
“Art is like a frozen moment in time,” Greene said. “You can look at a Chagall or a Picasso, and generally their stuff is so timeless, you can go back to it again and again and still be excited about it.
“It’s like good music, like the Beatles. You can listen to the same darn record over and over again. It has that timeless quality. That’s what I’m striving for.”
(Toby Tabachnick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)