Remembered Light: Glass Fragments from World War II, the McDonald Windows

November 21, 2019, to April 26, 2020
The Joe W. and Dorothy D. Brown Foundation Special Exhibit Gallery

Remembered Light: Glass Fragments from World War II, the McDonald Windows is a collection of 25 art pieces produced by Atelier Le Roux in Oakland, California, using shards of glass from damaged and destroyed European churches collected during World War II by the late US Army Episcopal chaplain Frederick McDonald. McDonald, who served under General Omar Bradley in the 12th Army Group through war-torn Europe, collected shards of stained glass and other mementos from desecrated sanctuary sites he visited from 1944 to 1945 after he first encountered a church in England destroyed by bombing and was heartbroken by the ruins.

During one of his assignments on March 8, 1945, McDonald entered the Gothic Church of Our Lady in Trier, Germany. He wrote of seeing the fallen crucifix on the floor with a statue of the Virgin Mary looking down at it. McDonald observed, as did many soldiers at the end of World War II, the devastation around him and the way the bits of broken glass on the ground shined in the sunlight. He believed that shards from shattered stained glass windows “might be worked into a memorial window somewhere” after the war. In 2003, 25 works of stained glass art were crafted by 13 artists using the small fragments collected by McDonald. 

Each of the artists in Remembered Light incorporated the glass fragments into pieces that interpret themes of loss, devastation, and continual striving for peace. Each piece includes a transcript from McDonald’s memory of the specific location and events related to it. The artists used McDonald’s notes from World War II, his recollections after the war, and their own research to create the original artworks. The scenes memorialized in the pieces speak directly to the origin of the shards—bombings in England, France, The Netherlands, Belgium, and Germany. Most of the art pieces combine various glass techniques, such as leaded glass, glass painting, enameling, sandblasting, fusing, slumping, silkscreen, and lampworking. Other media, such as ceramic, wood, acetate, and Plexiglas, have also been used. 

Remembered Light has traveled the country since 2007. The exhibit contains graphics explaining McDonald’s journey and includes a booklet of his stories, a lit display case of the remaining shards, various archives, and even a video produced by McDonald’s family in which he tells the story of his life and what he saw and felt during World War II. 

Remembered Light: Glass Fragments from World War II, the McDonald Windows is organized by the Interfaith Center at the Presidio. Lead Artist, Armelle LeRoux.

Remembered Light will be on display at the Museum from November 21, 2019, through April 26, 2020, in The Joe W. and Dorothy D. Brown Special Exhibit Gallery in Louisiana Memorial Pavilion.