New York-based artist Joseph Cavalieri, whose works in stained glass often feature unexpectedly bright imagery depicting cartoons and pop culture, may seem an unlikely candidate for a truly liturgical window, especially one to fill a never-completed building plan for the 93-year-old “Our Lady of Mercy” church in Itaparica, Brazil. When asked about this in an email interview, Cavalieri says his work is not disrespectful or making light of religion. “I take it you are referring to my “Il Momento della Morte” (The Moment of Death) featuring Bart and Lisa Simpson on the cross," he writes. "I don’t believe that work is satirical towards religion, mainly because it is NOT saying God doesn’t exist.“
In fact, Cavalieri describes his newest project as the result of a “divine intervention” that he received while teaching. During a 2010 residency at the Delhi College of Art in New Delhi, India, Cavalieri introduced his students to stained glass. The students watched with amazement, pushing each other out of the way to see his technique. He was struck by the enthusiasm for the students whose experiences may have been limited by poverty. A subsequent residency in Brazil, with a similarly economically challenged population, brought home the impact art can have in these communities.
“Both the Brazilian community and the school in Delhi have very little funding," said Cavalieri. "And both these projects are bringing art to people that would never have it in their lives.”
Cavalieri traveled to Brazil when he was chosen by the Sacatar Foundation for an art residency in 2011, to teach and create stained glass on the small island off the coast of Salvador. He spent two months working with students and staff. Six years later, the foundation reached out to Cavalieri again to help a church that has not had a stained glass window in the century since its construction despite having a space for it.
“Because it is in a poor community, buying and installing a window has been on hold… until now.” wrote Cavalieri in a letter to friends and family. “My approved design is based on a statue which was stolen from the church 10 years ago.”
Cavalieri concept drawing, titled “Return of Nossa Senhora,” has already been approved by the priest. Now, Cavalieri is looking for ways to fund the project’s materials, which will cost around $4,000. While he will pay his own travel costs, and the Sacatar Foundation is covering his living expenses, he still needs to raise the money to purchase the stainless steel frame, lighting, and glass. He has launched a fundraising effort, which you can support in any of three ways:
Paypal funds to Cavaglass@gmail.com
Mail a check to: Joseph Cavalieri 216 East 7th Street, #10 New York, NY 10009
Tax Deductible donation directly to the Sacatar Foundation through their Paypal with the special instructions “CHURCH WINDOW.”
Follow updates on this project through Cavalieri's blog.