Genie McKee, PhD, dean of University Library, has discovered a connection to Maryville in Dan Brown’s new best-seller, The Lost Symbol. In the book, art work is used to identify a meeting place. On page 295, clues are given leading protagonist Robert Langdon to the Washington National Cathedral.
(Spoiler alert!) One of the clues is a stone that came “from heaven itself.” The stone is a fragment of moon rock embedded in a stained glass window in the Cathedral. Rodney Winfield, Maryville professor emeritus, designed the window, known as the “Space Window,” to honor man’s landing on the moon.
Known formally as the “Scientists and Technicians Window,” the Space Window is the most widely-known of the 200 stained glass windows in the Cathedral. The window is unique to the cathedral since Winfield used one design in the three lancets. His color palette was inspired by actual NASA space photography. Large spheres in God’s universe contrast with the thin white line suggesting the trajectory of man’s spaceship. At the window’s dedication, the Apollo XI crew presented a sliver of lunar rock to the cathedral, which was subsequently firmly mounted in the center of the window.
Winfield was born in 1925 in New York City and attended Cooper Union School of Art in New York. He also studied at the Academie Julien in Paris and at Washington University. He moved to St. Louis in his 20s and worked at Emil Frei Stained Glass as a designer.
Winfield’s art is often liturgical or allegorical in nature and is found in many churches and synagogues around the country. He taught art at Maryville from 1964-1990. His media, besides stained glass, includes silver repousse, painting, illustration and sculpture. Many of us remember Rodney (we all knew him as Rodney) opening up his sketchbook and drawing one of us during faculty meetings. He now lives in Carmel, Calif.
In the Fall of 1982, Winfield reflected on his art during a slide lecture of his work for a Noontime Faculty Fine Arts Series:
All my life I have been involved in making myths of integration because all my life I have been polarized between sensuality and spirituality, fantasy and reality, confusion and clarity, and passivity and aggression. And through this confusion, this labyrinth, I have chosen the path of visual art—or did art choose me?
Winfield was extremely prolific and his works can be seen throughout Missouri and Illinois. Maryville is fortunate to have some of his pieces on display. In 1976, Winfield gave the University Library a large, predominantly blue, acrylic painting dedicated to “Those Who Love Books,” which hangs on a wall on the second floor of the library. His silver tabernacle and ever-burning sanctuary lamp are located in the small Eucharistic Chapel in Huttig Chapel. The University’s art collection houses three of his paintings: “At the Threshold”, “Golgotha” and “Experience at the Peak.”
In January, the Library will exhibit photographs of art and places described in The Lost Symbol. Of course, a poster of the Space Window will be prominently featured.
Article researched and written by Genie McKee, PhD