Hundreds of years ago, churches used artwork to teach about the life of Christ because most of the faithful could not read. Emporia artist Jim Dillman has carried on that tradition with a series of angel scenes rendered in his medium of choice: stained glass.
Dillman was Emporia Presbyterian Manor’s Featured Artist in May. Several of his stained-glass creations were on display all month as they were meant to be seen – illuminated by the sunlight streaming through the windows of the dining room.
In this year’s Art is Ageless competition, Dillman won the mixed media (amateur) category with a floral piece titled “Bird of Paradise.” Last year he also took the prize in that category with “Garden Angel,” one of his three angel-themed images that are based on the death and resurrection of Christ. The first depicts the angelic announcement of the Lord’s birth. The second is a weeping angel, which Dillman associates with the crucifixion. The garden angel reminded him of the one who told the women that Jesus’s tomb was empty.
Stained glass is the latest artistic endeavor for Dillman, who lives in Emporia with his wife, Beverly. For many years he was an avid photographer, active in the local camera club. Dillman’s brother-in-law was a stained-glass artist, and when his vision began to fail about 15 years ago, he asked if Dillman wanted to take over his materials.
Dillman began taking classes and visiting stores in Wichita, Topeka, and Overland Park that sold glass for artists.
“I think one of the things that can be really enjoyable and difficult is choosing the glass to use, because there’s lots of different types,” Dillman said. “One I use a lot is called water glass. It has an uneven surface, so that when you walk past, it looks like ripples in the water.”
Dillman is modest about his inspirations, saying they come from “real artists” who create the patterns he finds in art publications. But he takes care to seek out images with a beauty that stirs the heart and the soul.
“The weeping angel kind of jumped out at me. It’s a very dramatic, emotional thing,” Dillman said.