The Soul Man gets illuminated.
A stained glass artist has enshrined “Shaft” singer Isaac Hayes and other pop culture icons like President Obama and Ricki Lake in a series of old-school portraits, available for inspection and veneration at the UrbanGlass gallery in Fort Greene on Nov. 18. The glass-worker says that he loved giving the historically clerical medium an unexpected modern spin.
“Traditional stained glass is expected,” said Joseph Cavalieri, who has been working with stained glass for nearly two decades. “I love the religious background and the technique, but I’d rather see artwork that doesn’t have to be made out of glass — that doesn’t have to be in a church and is supposed to be new and exciting.”
Cavalieri took a host of famous faces — Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Ricki Lake, Queen Elizabeth, and more — and painted them in a format usually reserved for cathedral windows. For his “Power of Pop” exhibition at UrbanGlass, the pieces will be hung in light boxes that are illuminated 24 hours a day, and they will be visible from the street outside the gallery’s enormous glass windows.
Cavalieri said he became enlightened when he took a stained glass workshop at the same gallery in 1997 and felt drawn to the medium — so much that he abandoned his career as a graphic designer for glossy publications and threw himself into the craft full-time. He wanted to lend a fresh face to the old-world art style, and decided the cultural hub of Brooklyn was the perfect place for a pop culture-centric exhibition. He chose a decades-spanning variety of icons for the project, avoiding well-known images of the well-known faces.
The works may be devoid of religiosity, but the power combo of light and color that draws worshippers is still very much alive in the pop portraits, said Cavalieri.
“You put light behind it and people are so attracted to it,” he said. “It’s something primitive in our bodies — you see different colors and you’re attracted to it.”
“The Power of Pop” at UrbanGlass [647 Fulton St. #1 between Rockwell and Ashland places in Fort Greene, (718) 625–3685, www.urban