Summer is a great time to road trip, and what better travel bucket list to tackle than Tiffany’s glass mosaics! It was during the summertime a few years ago that my co-curator, Lindsy Parrott, and I began traveling across the country to prepare for our current exhibition, Tiffany’s Glass Mosaics.
Many of Tiffany’s glass mosaics are still installed in their original locations at universities, commercial office buildings, department stores, libraries, churches, and even cemeteries. As curators, Lindsy and I recognized that travel was crucial to our research to better understand the construction methods, glass selection, themes and subject matters, and the different ways mosaics were used in architectural interiors. We were not able to do this kind of research solely from archives and books because so many of Tiffany’s most important glass mosaics lacked high-quality detailed photography. Our goal was to gather this information to assess the full scope of Tiffany’s work in glass mosaic and to prepare exhibition checklists, including a list of brand new photography we wanted to capture for the exhibition and publication. We selected more than a dozen sites we felt were most in need of new images, and CMoG’s photography team traveled to Philadelphia, Baltimore, Chicago, New Jersey and throughout New York State to capture detailed images of these artworks. Many of these new photographs are now available to other scholars and Tiffany enthusiasts to study from and enjoy in CMoG’s exhibition and publication, Tiffany’s Glass Mosaics.
One of the special features of the exhibition, is the “Mosaic Theater.” The theater is designed as an immersive experience, using high-definition monitors to project the new images in stunning detail. Original musical scores accompany each featured site, all composed to convey a sense of the architecture or story unfolding before you on the monitors. The completely unique “Mosaic Theater” allows you to experience these mosaics up close and at eye level, providing the opportunity for heightened appreciation of the design, glass selection, and craftsmanship of Tiffany’s most important architectural mosaics.
While the exhibition at CMoG is one-of-a-kind opportunity to see so many of Tiffany’s glass mosaics in one place and in amazing detail, there is also nothing like seeing these mosaics in their original architectural surroundings. On our travels, Lindsy and I talked with church historians and docents to learn more about who commissioned mosaics and how they are being looked after today. We also witnessed the importance of light in mosaic design, watching the changes in color and reflection on the three-dimensional glass as a cloud drifted by outside. We listened to the church organist practicing at St. Michael’s Episcopal Church, a multi-sensory experience that inspired our “Mosaic Theater.” We spent hours leaning over the balcony and looking through binoculars, trying to take in the detailed glass and mother-of-pearl mosaics installed in the Marquette Building lobby. We were even took a moment to stop looking at the mosaics and do a little shopping under the grand mosaic domed ceiling at Macy’s department store (originally Marshall Field and Company), just like the first customers when the mosaic was unveiled in 1907.
There is nothing that compares to seeing these mosaics in their original settings. Traveling to see them in situ provides a sense of scale, dynamic lighting, and context with the other interior decorative elements. So, start planning your road trip, and be sure to stop off at CMoG to include the must-see exhibition, Tiffany’s Glass Mosaics, on your personal Tiffany bucket list this summer.
Tiffany’s Glass Mosaics is on view at The Corning Museum of Glass through January 7, 2018. Learn more about the exhibition.