“Modern art embraces a wide variety of movements, theories,and attitudes whose modernism resides particularly in a tendency to reject traditional, historical, or academic forms and conventions in an effort to create an art more in keeping with changed social, economic, and intellectual conditions.”
— Encyclopedia Britannica
Portland artist works recycled materials into Modernist art-glass windows
July 2009 article by Ruth Mullen, The Oregonian
Portland artist Don Leedy sees beauty in a shattered headlight and the murky bottom of a vintage beer bottle. The jagged edges of a broken juice glass become fodder for his work, as does the glass stopper from an old vinegar cruet.
Leedy, 62, discovered his talent after he stumbled across an artist’s briefcase on the streets of Baltimore 14 years ago. It had dropped off the woman’s luggage cart and was filled with colorful fused-glass pieces.
Leedy tracked her down at a nearby art show and, at his request, she mailed him a box of scrap glass.
A carpenter living in Baltimore at the time, Leedy had collected and studied art glass for years, and he’d taken a couple of metalworking classes. He took the box of glass, acquired some tools and sat down with a soldering iron.
Today, the full-time artist and father of two runs Brokenglass Studio out of his Southeast Portland home, crafting windows for clients who are drawn to his abstract, Modernist works.
His cluttered studio in a single-car garage at his home near Mount Tabor Park is filled with boxes of wine-bottle bottoms and discarded scrap glass, all raw material for future works.
“I’m looking for the freedom to go wherever the materials are going to let me go,” he says. “People call me when they break bowls and headlights. The glass tells you what to do.”
Some works are inspired by a find, such as a Japanese maple leaf discovered on an afternoon walk that he sandwiched between two pieces of glass.
Other details are the results of accidents, such as the time he worked in pieces of his daughter’s shattered juice glass.
Furniture maker and fellow artist Allen Kinast was immediately drawn to Leedy’s bold use of reclaimed materials and abstract imagery. Kinast and his wife, Teke Dillender, commissioned Leedy to make two sidelights to the front entrance of their house.
The work is so striking, Kinast adds, that guests love coming in through the front entrance.
“It’s a really, really nice piece of art that we get to live with and pass through on a daily basis,” he says.
Don Leedy uses a lot of reclaimed materials, including the thick, translucent bottoms of vintage wine bottles.
The layers of bright colors, textures and abstract imagery in this Leedy window create a striking Modernist focal point in the period home. The former carpenter and professional chef turned glass artist engages in lengthy conversations with clients before starting each project.