Captured in Glass

stained glass by dennis aiken

College & West High

by Tony Moore

If you look at the stained-glass windows created by Dennis Akin, a certain axiom comes to mind: Both religion and tragedy breed meaningful art. From the Renaissance to Picasso’s Guernica, the traditional and the modern have found inspiration in these themes, and Akin has found it there as well for some of his finer pieces.

Akin, who taught art and art history at Dickinson for more than 20 years, learned how to create architectural glassworks at the Pilchuck Glass School in Pilchuck, Wash., while on sabbatical. In 1981 Dickinson commissioned his first stained-glass piece when the college’s gymnasium was being transformed into the Weiss Center for the Arts. Over the years, he created 24 more windows, among them two that he cites as personally significant.

The first is a large three-piece window he created for the Milton B. Asbell Center for Jewish Life. “That’s one that I’m especially proud of,” he says. Found in the upstairs sanctuary, the triptych depicts the Biblical flood and the dove that appeared later to indicate that dry ground could be found. The whole work is centered on the Lion of Judah, one of the primary symbols of Judaism.

The other window is in Bosler Hall. “I  did a memorial window in Bosler for students who met with tragedy,” Akin says. The particular students who inspired the window both died during winter break in 1985. John Buonocore III was killed in a terrorist attack in Rome’s Leonardo da Vinci Airport, and Christine Major, one of Akin’s students, died of cancer. “I was quite fond of her,” Akin says. “So I made the window in their honor and by extension all Dickinson students who had met with tragedy comparable to theirs.”

The Bosler window features rising hummingbirds, which Akin used as metaphors: “The whole window is about a metamorphosis, rejuvenation, resurrection.”

Another medium Akin works with, and more extensively, is paint, and a collection of his expressionistic paintings, “Time and Memory,” was recently featured at the opening of the Carlisle Arts & Learning Center’s new home. Discussion of his art led to discussion of his glasswork, and his pieces around campus were soon rediscovered.

Akin’s other windows can be found in East College, the Wellness Center addition at the Kline Center, the Stern Center and Montgomery House.

Published October 28, 2013