Overflowing with bright energy and flair, Paige Kissinger welcomes visitors into her Sellersburg “villa” in Clark County with stories about her home’s unique history.
This graceful and inspired space — with some of the earmarks of an art gallery — “was once a chicken coop,” Kissinger said gleefully.
“My late father, Robert Allen Kissinger, an architect, purchased the property in the late 1950s and refashioned it, using skills that would later win him acclaim as a local architect. This house was his first project.”
As an architectural glass artist with a broad range of skills, Kissinger later added to the home’s pizzazz by designing all of its art glass windows. She also created many individual artworks arranged through the home.
This house is not the only project that eventually developed into a collaboration between father and daughter. The Jeffersonville Township Public Library was designed by the firm of Kissinger’s father, Kissinger and Associates Architects. All of the art glass windows and panels in the library were designed by Kissinger when she worked for VitraMax, an architectural glass company. These windows depict the Ohio River with fossils, riverbed and sky. A touch of bronze gilding in the design adds just enough contrast to make the images pop.
“Because of the importance of the river and fossils to the area,” Kissinger said, “every window I designed here has this theme.”
Kissinger also designed the imposing sculpture titled “On Holy Ground” that hangs over the library elevator. Made of kiln-formed bronze glass with luster, Kissinger created it, as captioned on a nearby plaque, “In Honor and Adoration of her Father.”
“My father was my greatest mentor,” Kissinger said.
Robert Kissinger studied architecture at the Illinois Institute of Technology under the late Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, who had been the last director of the Bauhaus in Germany before it was closed by the Nazis.
“The Bauhaus style was founded on the idea of bringing all the arts together, combining the fine arts with the utilitarian. This synthesis principle characterizes most of my work. I grew up immersed in painting, music, crafts, dance and design,” Kissinger said, then laughed: “I started dance lessons at the age of 3, and my father never missed a recital.”
Kissinger’s work titled “The Azure Flame” (a 14-inch-by-27-inch piece) demonstrates this merging of the arts. The front of the work is kiln-formed cast glass created in part with the artist’s fingers swirling — or “dancing” — through the pliable cast. Behind this is her painting in shades of turquoise, teal, aqua, navy and lime green, showing the influence of abstract expressionism. There is an impression of spontaneity in each gestural brushstroke.
Many of Kissinger’s glass sculptures were influenced by her travels to arts destinations. Her bowl-shaped sculpture titled “Water Lily” is her take on Monet’s famous series painted in Giverny, France. A brilliant orange and red glass sculpture, titled “Titian,” alludes to the Venetian artist’s bold use of color.
Glass held a fascination for Kissinger even when she was a little girl. “I would pick up any piece of glass I found and hold it up to watch the light sparkle and dance through ripples of color,” she said.
When she went to work for VitraMax, she said she “felt like Charlie in the chocolate factory of glass.”
Although glass artists use many different methods and techniques to create their work, glass art is usually divided into three broad categories: hot glass, cold glass and warm glass. Hot glass involves working with glass that has been melted in a furnace. This hot viscous glass can be used in glass blowing, sculpting and casting into molds. Examples of cold glass work include etching, carving and engraving. Warm glass is glass heated in an oven or kiln to a temperature high enough to be bent, fused with other glass shards or cast into a mold.
Kissinger’s work is kiln-formed, although she has done some work in all glass mediums. She has four kilns in her garage, which she uses for smaller pieces. For bigger projects, she uses kilns made available to her through the courtesy of others. She also has a small studio in Clarksville, but dreams of a studio big enough to accommodate all of her projects.
Kissinger graduated from the University of Louisville with a concentration in interior design and began her career in Indianapolis at Rowland Design. Since moving back “home” to Clark County, she has become known for her extensive creative outreach. She has permanent art installations on exhibit at Humana, St. Francis Hospital and Technidyne Corp. She has established a worship arts ministry, paints at live events, consults and teaches. •
For more information on the artist, visit paigekissinger.com.
Story by Judy Cato // Photo by Lorraine Hughes