When Denton glass artist Christie A. Wood is finished with her three-dimensional work honoring the late local bluesman Tom “Pops” Carter, her stained-glass monument won’t have the hallmarks of her signature work — elegant lines of lead and beveled edges of glass.
The glass will be like Carter himself — charismatic, spontaneous and a little worn around the edges.
“I’d been wanting to do a large-scale public art piece for a while,” Wood said.
The glass sculpture will cost $29,200, which will be funded from city hotel tax revenues. The City Council approved the expenditure during its Nov. 5 meeting.
Wood is probably best known for the magic she works with new stained-glass windows and the way she brings sagging, ruined church windows back to life.
For the Pops Carter piece, Wood won’t use the lead she normally needs to trace the figures and patterns brought to life by jewel-bright and opaque bits of colored glass in her two-dimensional windows and curved, Tiffany-style lampshades.
She won’t bevel the glass, either. Beveling finishes a pane of glass with a precise, angled edge. Residential customers who hire Wood to create custom windows and doors like the way beveling gives clear glass a diamond-like glimmer.
“This isn’t going to be my usual technique,” Wood said. “It’s going to be a 3-D piece and I’ll be layering glass on top of glass — it’s like the glass will be in relief.”
The artist heard about the public art commission through the Denton-based Visual Arts Society of Texas. Wood, a member of the society, read about it in an e-mail to members. The Denton Parks and Recreation Department, which administers the city’s public art money and maintains existing works, called for proposals.
The bid had a requirement: The art would honor Carter, who picked Denton as his home after rattling around Louisiana and Texas.
“It went out in August,” Wood said of the announcement. “I sent my bid in and found out I was short-listed.”
Wood designs and makes her art glass at Art Glass Ensembles, which she runs out of a historic house on Bolivar Street. Stained-glass pieces are her bread and butter, but the artist has been featured on HGTV for her sense of invention with bottles and curved pieces of glass that she fashions into night lights and decorative pieces.
Wood is also a musician to the marrow of her bones. Her father, known around town as “Mr. Woody,” was a member of the first One O’clock Lab Band, the premier jazz ensemble at the University of North Texas. Clarence “Woody” Wood has a musical instrument repair shop just out back of Art Glass Ensembles. Christie Wood is an accomplished flutist and classical musician.
“Something a lot of people might not know is that I also play baritone saxophone,” Christie Wood said. “I was in the Nine O’clock Lab Band at UNT and I play the sax in Foo McBubba.” Foo McBubba is the big jazz band affiliated with First United Methodist Church of Denton.
Wood was familiar with the flamboyant Pops Carter, who never appeared without ruffled shirts, fingers stacked with chunky rings and his red beret. It didn’t make sense to canonize Carter in a church-style window. Better to honor his dedication to an American folk art with a more organic kind of stained glass, she decided.
“I looked at photos of Pops that were taken during his 91st birthday performance. He’s finished his song. He’s holding his microphone in one hand and his sweat rag in the other,” Woods said.
The proposal she submitted shows Carter seated, with ribbons of color unfurling from him.
“There is every color in it,” Wood said. “It was important for me to show Pops as a working musician.”
The proposal is for a large glass work set into a stainless steel frame designed and made by Denton metal artist Patrick Thaden. The frame is to be anchored by two concrete pillars.
“We wanted to make it vandalism-proof and able to withstand the wind and weather,” Wood said. “We did have to submit a revision to include two pieces of safety glass that’ll keep people from vandalizing it.”
Vandalism is a typical consideration for the parks department as it installs public art outdoors. Wood doesn’t know where the department will put the piece yet, but she requested the art end up near the band shell in Quakertown Park, where Carter often performed.
Wood estimated that the piece will use at least 600 pieces of glass. She will use glass laminates that are rated for shock forces and wind. And as is usual for a stained-glass work, Wood has taken Texas seasonal sunlight and the sun’s movement into account as she selects glass colors.
Wood’s work can be seen in Denton and around the county. Her glass mosaic of Christ surrounded by children faces Bell Avenue on the east side of First United Methodist Church’s education wing on Mulberry Street. She designed and made the stained-glass cross in the entrance way window of Faith United Methodist Church in Corinth.
Her work is also inside the Country Abbey, a wedding chapel in Justin. She created the stained glass in First Baptist Church of Denton’s new baptistery.