Smith College Admission Academics Student Life About Smith news Offices
Five College Calendar
Smith eDigest
Submit an Idea
News Archive
News Publications
Planning an Event
Contact Us
News & Events

Alumna Artist Mixes Old with New

To her, any unwanted items are potential fodder for her art—pieces of broken glass in and around the Mill River, rusted tractor gears from local farmers.
Elizabeth Denny ’81 specializes in taking old items and recycling them into creative, intriguing, sometimes-quirky works of art. Her front yard in Florence sports her sculpture of a filing cabinet with limbs stepping across the grass.

Now, as you approach Haven House from the Campus Center side, you can see her artwork in the stained glass around the doorframe.

When the residence was renovated last fall, the original glass—likely more than 120 years old—that had framed the door broke in several places. Project architect Peter LaPointe, of Florence, sought an artist who could incorporate the house’s original stained glass into a new glass frame. Denny’s name came to him at the recommendation of her acquaintances at Snow Farm in Williamsburg, where Denny often works on her art projects, welding pieces together.

“I’ve gained sort of a reputation for this kind of thing, using old, broken pieces to make new art,” says Denny. “I’ll work with just about anything, from yesterday’s beer bottle to stuff that dates from the Mill River flood in the 1870s.”

It was a fitting match of artist and location: during her first year at Smith, Denny lived in Haven House (“for a few minutes,” she said) before moving to Washburn. (She attempted to find her old room in the house while working on the project last fall, but could not remember where it was.)

To create the new windows at Haven House, Denny collected pieces of the original broken glass. Using a traditional stained-glass method employing lead channeling, solder and putty, she arranged the cut pieces into panels, filling in with new glass as needed. The panels were then mounted in the doorframe by Wright Builders, the contractor for the project.

In creating Haven’s doorframe windows, Denny was intent on repeating the original jewel theme of other stained-glass sections of the house, she says. “I wanted to do something that would honor the building and the original work inside,” she said.

It’s a typical method for Denny—mixing the old with the new. She has used that approach in her works for a chiropractic office in Florence, and for several private clients, she said.

“I love doing this, making things using recycled materials,” she said. “And I have no competition for materials. People think I’m crazy. They say, ‘You want that stuff?’ I can’t stand to throw things away.”

4/1/08   By Eric Sean Weld
DirectoryCalendarCampus MapVirtual TourContact UsSite A-Z