|About C. Robert Markert|
C. Robert Markert
dba/ Fenestra Arts Vita
Selected list of projects:
OTHER EXPERIENCE AND EDUCATION:
Courier-Journal April 13, 2008
It took only a month after Bob Markert left Louisville's Studio2000 art program for private art commissions to start flowing in.
Markert got a call from Joe Phelps, pastor of Highland Baptist Church. The church owns a cycle of spectacular stained and painted glass windows that Markert did 37 years ago when he was a young liturgical artist in Louisville. Now, it wants 32 more windows in a simpler form of the Cloud of Witnesses theme for its renovated Fellowship Hall.
Markert also got a call about painting two historical murals on the flood wall at Kosmosdale, a former concrete-production community southwest of Louisville, and he has accepted a commission for new doors and a Torah cover for Temple Adath Israel/Brith Shalom.
"I had plans to get back in," said Markert, 66. "But I didn't expect to get busy for a year. It's great, but I just thought I'd have more time to sleep."
This is a small joke.
Markert is a multi-tasking kind of guy. He has been an ordained deacon of the Roman Catholic Church since 1976. He co-founded and helps produce the televised "Mass of the Air" that has been broadcast since 1977.
Markert sits on the Mayor's Committee on Public Art, stays in touch with the kids in the Studio2000 project he founded for city youth and helps his wife of 43 years, Patsy Hofmann, baby-sit 12 grandchildren for their four children.
Markert, who was born in Louisville, discovered his creativity through calamity.
At age 10, he was diagnosed with diabetes after falling into a coma. Part of his cure was bed rest for a year. "I drew all the time, and I read," Markert recalled.
His ambition was the priesthood. After attending Louisville's former St. Thomas Seminary for high school, he graduated in 1963 from St. Meinrad College in Indiana with a degree in philosophy.
"I wanted to be a priest," he said, "but after graduation I just all of a sudden decided this is great, but it's not for me anymore."
He took a few art classes and, not knowing what else to do, took his portfolio to Edwin Penna at Louisville Art Glass (now Architectural Glass Art, owned by Penna's son-in-law, Ken vonRoenn).
"Papa Penna gave me a chance," said Markert. "I never looked back. How can you not be fascinated with color and light? But I didn't know I would eventually be a significant designer."
He and a friend, German glass artist Peter K. Eichhorn, began their own studio, Fenestra, in the early 1980s.
The Louisville business grew and Markert was making a name as a liturgical designer.
His projects included windows, church renovation, sanctuary furniture design and chapel design for clients that included Our Mother of Good Counsel and St. Martha Catholic churches, Temple Adath Israel-Brith Shalom, Jewish Hospital, Our Lady of Peace, Kosair Children's Hospital, St. Michael Orthodox Church and St. Andrew's Episcopal Church.
His method for dealing with such varied congregations is the same, he said.
"The people who occupy that space all have a need to be supported and nourished. It is different between denominations, but I don't always rely on who they tell me they are. I go and worship with them."
To Markert, the fascination of liturgical art is that it is "a dramatic and constant reminder that there is infinitely more to reality than what we see day by day on this earth."
Markert enjoyed an expansive career.
He lectured on church art and published articles in the Stained Glass Journal. He did post-graduate studies in theology, sat on the board of the Citizens Metropolitan Planning Council and the board of the Stained Glass Association of America.
He and Eichhorn amicably split and sold Fenestra in 1986 so that Markert could concentrate on his design career and Eichhorn could establish his own studio. However, within a year the new owner of Fenestra decided to auction Fenestra designs. "I had to buy back my own work," Markert recalled.
"In 1989 I went through a year of deep depression. I was in bed 20 hours a day," Markert recalled. He said he pulled out of it when his wife and a friend, the city's law director Frank X. Quickert, asked him to take a job in real-estate title research for the city.
Markert did this until the early 1990s and then came up with an energizing art idea -- Studio2000 -- for inner-city kids, who could be paid in summer jobs doing artwork the city needed.
"I took it from a summer program for 40 kids to an around-the-year, full-time thing for 100 kids. I enjoyed being granddaddy for all of them," said Markert.
He looks at his art in a similar way.
"All these windows are my children in a very real way. They are created to be adopted out."
Reporter Diane Heilenman can be reached at (502) 582-4682.