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Artist, Glass Sculptor Jean-Jacques Duval to Receive Honorary Degree

The French artist and sculptor Jean-Jacques Duval, whose architectural stained glass works hang in the Angell College Center and Feiniberg Library, will receive State University of New York honorary degree in fine arts at SUNY Plattsburgh’s May 13 spring commencement.

Duval created both “Spirit of Learning,” which reflects brightly in the windows of the Angell College Center grand stairwell, and “Kristallnacht: Night of Broken Glass,” which was commissioned to hang in the Douglas and Evelyn Skopp Holocaust Memorial Gallery in Feinberg Library. 

In her nomination of Duval for the doctor of fine arts degree, Plattsburgh State Museum Director Cecilia Esposito said, “Duval has an international reputation in the fine art of stain glass. He opened his studio in Manhattan in 1958 and has continued to execute commissions to this day, receiving many prestigious commissions.”

Holocaust Gallery Commission

He was commissioned to do the Holocaust gallery piece in 2012 by the Student Association and Plattsburgh College Foundation to commemorate Nov. 10, 1938, when the Nazis ordered the destruction of Jewish businesses and homes in Munich, Germany. The night was so named “Kristallnacht,” or “The Night of Broken Glass” from the shattered glass from the thousands of store windows that had been destroyed.

Esposito said that the colors in the two five-foot sculptures, “are symbolic of wisom, prophecy, renewal, rebirth and fire.”

In recent years, Duval has contributed a large collection of his presentation drawings that illustrate his work in progress, along with prints and drawings by Willhem de Kooning, John Cage and Toulouse Lautrec to the college.

The 87-year-old artist was born in France and studied at the Ecole Superieur des Arts Decoratifs in Strasbourg and the Art Students League in New York after World War II.

Through the years, he has taught at art schools and universities around the world, has received numerous awards for his work, including a lifetime achievement award from the Stained Glass Association of America in 2005, and has work hanging in galleries, private collections, businesses and nonprofits around the world. Duval created the large-scale stained glass found in the chapel at CVPH Medical Center.

‘Overwhelmed, Pleased and Honored’

When he received word about the honorary degree, Duval said he “was overwhelmed, pleased and honored to accept this award.”

Thanking the SUNY Board of Trustees, Chancellor Nancy Zimpher, Esposito and President John Ettling, Duval said his creation of “Kristallnacht” was emotional.

“Creating the ‘Kristallnacht’ glass sculptures for the Holocaust museum was a very emotional trip back to the Occupation with stressful memories for me. Chopping the dale de verre — slab glass — I could not help but see in my mind the ‘Night of Broken Glass.’ I was privileged to have been asked to create some art work for the museum.”

Worked with Students

For “Kristallnacht,” he enlisted the help of several students, whom, he said, were praised by his fabricator of 50 years.

“I could not get over how quickly (the students) grasped the technique and even had suggestions I would not have thought about,” Duval said of the SUNY Plattsburgh students’ assistance. “My fabricator was impressed with the finished art glass and, I quote, said, ‘My craftspeople could not have done it better. I would hire them any time.’”

He said the students “hand-forged clamps to shape the panels to fasten them to the existing frames, rather than using the standard clips. I thoroughly enjoyed working with them. It was an inspiration."

Duval continues to be inspired at his home and design studio in Willsboro, N.Y.

Spring Commencement will be held Saturday, May 13 with two ceremonies: the first beginning at 9 a.m. for students majoring in programs within the School of Education, Health and Human Services and the School of Business and Economics; the second begins at 2 p.m. for students in the School of Arts and Science. 

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