The former three-car-garage-turned-car-repair-shop converted into Daniel Winterich’s backyard studio in Pleasant Hill is its own kind of church. Marrying architecture and primarily glass design art in large-scale site-specific installations for interior, architectural and public spaces, it is elemental light that embodies the awe, wonder, peace, transcendence and contemplation that Winterich’s art aims to evoke.
Drawing inspiration from his childhood in Ohio and the 105-year-old practices of his family’s liturgical arts studio, the fifth-generation artist is trained in classic stained glass techniques and traditions dating back and prior to German artists like his great-great-grandfather, Joseph Winterich. Brought forward to the figurative styles found in American churches of the 1960s, Winterich honed his drawing skills while working on ecclesiastical projects across the U.S. Midwest and South.
Jolted into awareness of how glass within architecture can manipulate light while reading a book in the family library featuring the linear quality of glass artist Ludwig Schaffrath’s work, he went on to earn an undergraduate design degree at the University of Cincinnati School of Architecture. During his studies, he completed a six-month glass-painting apprenticeship at the renowned German stained glass studio Glasmalerei Oidtmann. Subsequently working at three award-winning architectural firms, Winterich in 1990 became a registered architect.
Among Studio Winterich’s Bay Area clients are Sun Microsystems, Philips Semiconductors, RNM Restaurant, San Francisco Conservatory of Music and others. Award-winning outdoor private and public art installations for clients such as Netflix, Apple and Ellis Partners are in Oakland, Fremont, Palo Alto, San Jose, San Francisco and more. Private residential projects can be found in Lafayette, Alameda, Walnut Creek and other locations.
“I create installations that are meditative, hopefully calming, contemplative. That’s the experience I had viewing stained glass as a kid,” he says in a phone interview from Venice, Italy.
Invited to participate in the European Cultural Centre’s “Biennale” for architecture and sculpture, his public art installation at 1100 Broadway in downtown Oakland, “Retu(r)ned Oak” (bayareane.ws/Winterich), has been recreated on a gallery wall in the Palazzo Mora in Venice in an 18-by-9-foot photomural and a video edited by Perry Hallinan with music by Paul Chavez and photos by Michael O’Callaghan.
Winterich says exhibits at the European Cultural Centre event are typically text-heavy and feature small-scale models. Seeking to present an immersive experience, Winterich photographed the actual building and delivered a digital file to the Venice print shop that produced it on vinyl wallpaper and applied it to the gallery wall. That’s standard stuff — think of large images on city buses — but collaborating with a videographer and a composer was new and, he says, incredible.
The power of the video’s final form was a marvel to him. Editing a thousand process photographs of the glass work that evokes the geometry of an acorn cap (in a nod to Oakland being once covered by live oaks), the making of Retu(r)ned Oak became a story with minimal text and no narrative. The film score, he says, came at first in “rough little sketches of music that caused me to feel emotions from joy to anticipation to a sense of brooding.”
Winterich says that growing up In “a crazy household with six kids” meant comfort was highly sought.
“I spent a lot of time in the woods. I found light to be a source of comfort: sunlight streaming through leaves, coming into the light from a dark section of forest — it’s inspirational.” In the same way, light flowing through stained glass induces awe and an inner glow that Winterich says he finds comforting. Struggling to find the right descriptors, he says, “That’s what art does: it puts you in a place you can’t describe.”
While learning to paint, sculpt and problem-solve in abstract design forms during college, a visit to an Ellsworth Kelly’s public art installation, “Colored Panels for a Large Wall,” altered his career trajectory.
“These were paintings and not just decoration,” he says. “The spacing, scale, colors, light entering — it was just the type of art I wanted to do because it was integrated with architecture.”
Developing his practice, Winterich initially works independently, sketching by hand and steered by the physical site, client “wants” and the history, sounds, smells and light quality of a space. To complete the problem-solving involved in manufacturing and handcrafting the works, he typically collaborates with associates he has worked with for years.
Winterich says the quality of public art has risen during the last 20 years. Advancing technology such as LED lighting and laser-cut metal combined with harmonious, aesthetically relevant and resonant art means “it’s a fusion of art and architecture and not just a sculpture plopped into a public space.” Dichroic glass that changes color depending on the viewing angle is alluring and requires restraint, he admits.
“Without intent, it can look garish, almost like it’s in Las Vegas. Used sparingly, it can be magical because it can twinkle like stars or change colors like a chameleon.”
Projects such as “Approach,” a sinuous, stainless steel work that grew from inspiration Winterich found in fractal geometry and streams running through Bay Area salt ponds, gained affirmation during a family outing.
“We were at Pismo Beach, and there were crabs burrowing paths through the sand that were the exact same shape as these streams. That blew my mind,” he recalls.
Another project, “Solar Matrix,” has 362 Pyrex glass rods piercing a 15″ thick cement wall. “The rods harvest the sunlight on the south wall and reflect it through concrete to the north wall, making it light up, like it was electrified.”
Homemade, handmade, honoring tradition while bursting with technological innovation and artistic vision like glass rods through cemented notions, Winterich continues to pursue projects to illuminate public and private spaces with architecture and art working in harmony.
Lou Fancher is a freelance writer. Contact her at [email protected]