Queer Glass: Meet Joseph Cavalieri, Artist

Pittsburgh welcomes queer artist Joseph Cavalieri! His work features medieval stained glass techniques with an ironic pop twist in clever and irreverent combinations. He will be a featured artist in an upcoming show called Material World at the Pittsburgh Glass Center. He tells us about his life and work.

A little more than a year ago, I was contacted by the Pittsburgh Glass Center (PGC) asking if I would exhibit in an art show based on consumerism. I jumped at the chance. In the past I taught at PGC, so I know the staff and the bold choices of art that is shown in their Hodge Gallery, plus I’m excited to get to know more about Pittsburgh and the queer community at the opening. With this article, I hope to connect with the LGBTQ community directly, and to get an adventurous and stylish group of queer folks to attend the art opening. Okay, even if you are not a fashionista, you are invited.

Silk-screened and kiln fired enamels  on layered glass set into a steel frame with LED lights.

Since I was first contacted, I’ve created 11 hand painted works of characters not often seen in stained glass. These include Barbie, Groundskeeper Willie, Endora, Alice in Wonderland, Helen Hayes, and Queen Elizabeth II. I am exhibiting with fellow artists Slate Grove, Karina Guevin and Cédric Ginart, and Morgan Peterson. PGC came up with a great title for the show: “Material World.” It will be excellent to have a new audience for my work outside of my home town of New York City.

A Medieval Process
My process dates back to Medieval times. Glass is cut, painted with enamels, and kiln fired to 1250 degrees to fuse the paint onto the surface of the glass. Then all the pieces are soldered together and placed in a wall hung light box. Of course Medieval artisans had to make the glass, mix the enamels, and didn’t have LED lighting to light their work. If I ever had a chance to go back in time, it would be to visit a Medieval village in Europe. I would love to see the process firsthand, then leave quickly before I come down with scurvy or leprosy.

Image of artists work, Hand painted and silk-screened (kiln fired) enamels on
 stained glass, set into a steel frame with LED lights with the words "hell, evil, sin, 666, criminal, Republicans".
“Sin” Hand painted and silk-screened (kiln fired) enamels on
stained glass, set into a steel frame with LED lights. 15 x 8.5 x 2
inches. 2019

Loving Glass
I find people have a genuine love of stained glass, from viewing the works of Tiffany, to works designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and stained glass viewed in Churches. As a child I attended Church, and while I was listening to the sermon, I was deeply affected by the glowing stained glass windows. Who would have known I would make this into a career as an adult.?

Artist often juggle different occupations. Along with this exhibition I will be teaching a painting on glass class at PGC in mid March, and have a free lecture on marketing for artists, to share what I have learned over the years.

I have been gay my whole life, was raised with five older sisters, so my art has a gay slant but is enjoyed and collected by everyone.

My one concern is “Will the people of Pittsburgh ‘get’ my art?” I’m sure my “Sin” panel will offend local Republicans. While I was making work for the PGC show I questioned if my gay New York background and choice of imagery will be alien to the people of Pittsburgh? I guess I will soon tell by the reaction and sales from this exhibition. I really don’t know if art consumers throughout the US think the same, or if it is different depending on where you live. I make work that I would be excited and proud to hang in my home, and it often has a humorous side.

My Background
During a career art directing magazines here in New York, I got interested in glass, and in 2010 switched careers. Since then I’ve had shows in many places including in galleries in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan. My work is in the permanent collection of the Museum of Arts and Design, the Italian American Museum, and the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art. My collectors include two Simpson’s writers in Los Angeles, and movie director Morgan Spurlock.

In addition to making work for gallery exhibitions, I’ve made many private and public commissions, including a large glass project with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) Arts for Transit, here in New York City, and a six-foot round stained glass window for a church in Salvador, Brazil. Most enjoyable for me are art residencies. In the last 10 years, I have been awarded 15 different art residency programs around the world, with one coming up in October 2019, in Palm Springs. If you need a tan and have a chance to visit please let me know, I will be working there for two months.

Joseph’s work can be seen at the “Material World” exhibition at the Pittsburgh Glass Center, 5472 Penn Ave, Pittsburgh, PA, 15206 (412) 365-2145
The exhibition runs from March 1st through May 12th, 2019.
The opening reception is March 1st, from 6 to 9pm.

This article originally appeared on QueerPgh.com. This article is preserved as a part of the Q Archives project. Please consider donating to help preserve Pittsburgh’s Queer history.