Artist Jeannette Spencer cringes as she tells her tale of mystery and intrigue.
“I know it sounds unbelievable but it happened. It’s such a strange twist of fate.”
Spencer is referring to the made-for-Hollywood background story of how her original stained glass piece “Everest Reborn” came to be recreated and installed at the Rebirth group exhibition at the Rustad Galleria.
In January, Spencer answered a call for artists put out by Two Rivers Gallery. The theme of the exhibit was Earthly and Spencer decided to do a stained glass piece of the most earthy subject she could think of: Earth’s highest mountain (at 29,035 feet high) Mount Everest.
She had no connection with the mountain range whose summit borders on Nepal to the south and China to the north.
She’s not a mountain climber and had never even visited the area.
“I didn’t know anything about Mount Everest but I did all the research, it was very time consuming but I wanted to get it right. I looked at photographs and chose a side of the mountain that I liked best and started work on the piece. I called it Elements of Everest and, when I was finished, I submitted it.
“There were lots of entries and I got a letter from the assistant curator telling me mine wasn’t accepted. I was disappointed but I put it away and forgot about it.”
On April 18, Spencer’s thoughts turned once again to the piece she’d put away from sight – and out of her mind.
“I was watching the news unfold about an avalanche on Mount Everest which had claimed the lives of 16 (some accounts say the number was 13) Nepalese Sherpa guides – making it the deadliest disaster in Everest’s history.”
Spencer said chills went up her spine. She retrieved her “rejected” piece and set it up to compare it with the maps being shown on T.V. of exactly where the disaster had taken place.
The artist was stunned to discover that the side she had represented in her piece was the Nepal side where so many people had lost their lives.
Far from just uncanny, Spencer said the news left her feeling “shaken,” and she finally understood her connection with Mount Everest. However the strangest part was yet to come.
“I was just sitting there on the couch, looking from my piece to the news images, comparing it to maps they had on the screen when the piece suddenly slid forward, then fell over onto the floor and shattered,” said Spencer.
“When I went over, I saw the only thing left was the landscape at the bottom. It was so eerie.
“I couldn’t believe it.”
There was nothing to explain why it had fallen, said Spencer, because she had placed there securely. She calls it her “shock and awe” moment.
“It defies any logical explanation. The nature of stained glass is that you do get breakages – but not like that. It was completely shattered.”
For a while, Spencer mulled over whether or not she should try to “rebuild” it.
“Then I thought, these men (who died) have no chance to rebuild their lives but I have the chance to make the piece whole again.”
So she picked up the pieces, literally, using what few bits she could to restore the piece but basically had to start all over again.
Now Everest Reborn hangs on the wall at Rustad Galleria.
It has glorious colours, turquoise, light mauve and purple white snow capped mountains, white “swirled” snow and at the top, a vivid dark blue sky.
“The new piece that I made for Rebirth is dedicated to the upcoming anniversary (April 18) of the Mount Everest disaster,” said Spencer.
“This strong connection of circumstances gave me every reason to pick up the pieces,” she says in her artist’s statement.
“Everest Reborn is a tribute to remember those who lost their lives that fateful day and those whose lives are forever changed because of it.”
For more information on Everest Reborn, visit Jeannette Spencer’s website at www.glasscrayons.com.