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SAMA’s Best: Mosaic Arts International 2011

On 01, Mar 2011 | 6 Comments | In Uncategorized | By man-admin

Best In Show
Great Red Spot, 2010  Yulia Hanansen  36″ x 56″  Stained glass

The Society of American Mosaic Artists’ (SAMA) Mosaic Arts International (MAI) at the Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center (MACC) in Austin, Texas is simply the best exhibit that the organization has ever produced.

The mosaics selected serve as excellent ambassadors for the art form.  Kudos to jurors JeanAnn Dabb, Professor of Art History at the University of Mary Washington, Nola Diamantopoulos, President of the Mosaic Art Association of Australia, and Jean Graham of Austin Art in Public Places for a job extremely well done.   With 42 works, this show is smaller than past MAIs.  However, what was lost in numbers was certainly gained in the quality of the exhibit.

Photo courtesy of Ed Kinsella

The venue is exquisite and – hallelujah – has a lighting scheme that seems custom-made for mosaics.  Texture, relief, reflectivity, and luminosity are captured by both natural and incandescent light.  MACC’s curators and the SAMA Exhibit Committee should also take a bow.  Hurry, because this show will run only through March 30, 2011.  (Can we do this again?)

Best In Show
Great Red Spot, 2010  Yulia Hanansen


36″ x 56″  Stained glass

Yulia Hanansen’s fascination with the cosmos is a consistent theme in her mosaics and her latest, Great Red Spot, is a masterwork worthy of the designation, Best In Show.  Hanansen’s inspiration came from photographs of space exploration that she found somehow lacking.  “I wanted to create an experience that would go beyond the photograph and explore the feelings, the flow of matter, which would have motion and defy a freeze-frame moment.”
We are sorry that this work was only represented as a photograph itself in the exhibit; it is permanently installed in a private residence.  However, if you click to enlarge this photo (as you should with every one in this post) you will be able to see her deft use of stained glass in pursuing her goal.  The background is composed of dreamy, mottled color fields that indicate depth and large, slow movement.
The tiny, lozenge-shaped pieces meticulously layered on top of the background provide a staccato, quick-moving counterpoint.  Here is the mighty force of the universe at work up close and personal – the energy of chaos and creation personified.
Best Two-Dimensional
Evanescence, 2010  Sophie Drouin

Sophie Drouin "Evanescence" 2010 30x24 in

 24″ x 30″ x 9″
  Marble, gold, dichroic glass Blenko slag and glass, smalti, granite, slate, snowflake obsidian, tourmaline and stybnite.
We love the way Drouin captures the last fleeting moments in the lives of sheets of cardboard as they are consumed by fire.  Evanescence, according to one online dictionary, is defined as “quickly fading from sight, memory, or existence.”
The title is apt.  There is still heat in those glowing pieces of glass at the center of the work even as the edges cool and turn to ash/marble.  A moment in time is captured beautifully through Drouin’s mastery of her materials.  Brava.
Best Three-Dimensional
La Corrente (The Current), 2010  Julie Richey  
29″ x 22″ x 22″
Italian and Mexican smalti, marble, 24k gold leaf, seashells and chalcedony on mixed media base.
Juror JeanAnn Dabb said of this work:

La Corrente is an elegant sculpture expertly executed in traditionally durable mosaic materials with imagery that comments on the fragile ecosystem of the Gulf of Mexico. Richey’s recent sculptures have clothing or dress forms as shared structures and the environments referenced in their individual subjects range from the rural to the urban; all linked by the actions of humans and the forces of nature.”

We’re going to admit that Ms. Richey is a good friend of ours and we’ve followed the creation of La Corrente via photographs.  However, we were not prepared for how captivating this piece would be in person.  In La Corrente, Richey has succeeded in making hard materials — stone, glass, and shell — appear to float and fold with the gentle grace that only wind and water can bestow. We are reminded that all in nature is fragile.
Best Architectural

Eternity Revisited  2010  Kimberly Schonfeld

33″ x 33″ x 18″
24K Colored gold smalti.

From the Artist’s Statement:

The mosaic sculpture was created when a mobius form that had been playing in my mind for several years merged with the body-mind-spirit philosophy of the Roy and Patricia Disney Family Cancer center at Providence Saint Joseph Center where it now resides.

This is a striking piece and we can only imagine what it looks like in person as natural light catches the richness of the colored gold smalti and sets the work to shimmering and vibrating.

Schonfeld used a single, continuous red-orange line to signify eternal life.  Subtle.  Gorgeous.

Juror’s Choice:  JeanAnnDabb
Untitled, 2010  Laurel True
21″ x 32″ x .5″  Asphalt and concrete gathered from Oakland, New Orleans and Haiti, vintage gold smalti, recycled glass smalti from Kenya and salvaged mirror.
Ms. True has been featured in MAN’s magazine and blog for her outstanding work in community mosaics in the US, Ghana, Kenya and, most recently, Haiti.  Frankly, we don’t know where she finds the time to pursue her studio practice, but we’re grateful that she does.
This work immediately called to mind some of the classical patterns used in ancient mosaics, like the “shield pattern” used in this second century Head of Medusa.
National Roman Museum, Rome
A friend suggested that there is also something very 50’s in the work as well.
 1950’s graphic via the web

That works, too.

A second look at Untitled shows us True’s ability to find grace, beauty, and opportunity everywhere as she juxtaposes her “collected rubble” with classical mosaic materials.  Who knew asphalt could look so good?  Maybe everything old is new again – and visa versa.

Editors Note:  After the original publishing of this post, Ms. True contacted us with additional information on this work:

Sakre, (Sacred)  Design inspired by African house painting and decorative patterns used on household objects.  The simple, rhythmic repetition of pattern references comfort, beauty and sacredness imbued in our differing concepts of home and the objects we live with – however temporary.

Juror’s Choice:  Nola Diamantopoulos
Gilbert’s Swirl, 2009  Lenni Gilbert
 30″ x 11″ x 11″
Italian smalti and stanied glass on a hand-carved polystyrene and concrete substrate.
What’s not to love?  We could rhapsodize about sculptural technique and color blending and using hard glass to make soft ice cream but, who cares?  This is joy on a pedestal!
We grinned like an idiot every time it came within view during the opening night festivities.  The artist’s “day job” is being a food stylist – of course.
Call it Pop.  Call it kitsch.  We just adore it.
Juror’s Choice:  Jean Graham
The Little Froggie Played Zorro, 2009  Drucilla Perez-Tubens
30.5″ x 20.5″ x 17″
Concrete and wire armature with stained glass.
Perez-Tubens continues to delight and amaze with her whimsical, beautiful mosaics.  We have no idea what the inspiration for this work was – her Artist Statement offers no clues and a Google search came up empty – but again, who cares?  We immediately started to create our own stories about Froggie.
We swear we saw Antonio Banderas in this work.  Can you say “Attitude?”  Delightful.
Members Choice Award
Miss Anita Cocktail, 2010  Michael Kruzich
  28″ x 12″  Stone, smalti, vitreous glass
This mosaic was a clear crowd favorite during the opening night festivities for MAI and easily won the coveted Members Choice Award.  Artist Michael Kruzich says this about the piece:
Anita is the first in a series of seven San Francisco Drag personalities that I am rendering in mosaic to celebrate and honor their heroic charity work on behalf of our local LGBT community.
There is so much energy, vitality and sheer joie de vivre jumping out from this image that we expected it to glow in the dark.
Kruzich did a wonderful job of using andamento  (check out that radiating background) and materials (more smalti plumage, please) to bring Miss Cocktail to life.  She was, indeed, the life of the party the opening night of MAI.
Finally, we’re going to take editorial privilege and include photos of MAN publisher, Michael Welch and his work Timeless Vortex – Antelope Canyon which was also selected for MAI 2011.
15″ x 24″  Italian and Mexican smalti.
These photos don’t do the work justice – an iPhone will only give you so much – but we think the work and the man are extraordinary.
The glories of the American Southwest were a continual source of artistic and spiritual inspiration for Michael and his husband, the late founder of MAN, Bill Buckingham.
This mosaic is a testament to Michael’s love for Bill and their mutual love of mosaics.  While all else in their world was crumbling, these two men continued to create beauty – one tesserae at a time.  This is what art is all about.
Enjoy –  Nancie
Photos of MAI works courtesy of SAMA and the individual artists unless otherwise noted.
Information regarding ancient mosaics, courtesy of Lillian Sizemore.
Exhibition Details:
Society of American Mosaic Artists 2011 Mosaic Arts International
600 River Street  Austin, Texas
February 17 through March 30, 2011
To order the catalog from SAMA, click here.

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  1. Nancie Mills Pipgras

    It was a very festive night, George, wasn't it? I was sorry I didn't have the opportunity to see the show in a quieter moment.

  2. George

    This captures the experience of the exhibition almost better than being there. So much (delightful) distraction with lively conversation during the opening!
    Thanks, Nancie

  3. Nancie Mills Pipgras

    Thank you, JoAnn. That is all we could hope for and more.

  4. Carole Choucair Oueijan

    Thank you so much nancie for this wonderful article.
    You made me feel better looking at all winners' work especially that I missed SAMA this year.
    Congratulations to all of you!
    Carole Choucair Oueijan

  5. JoAnn Locktov

    I would like to thank you so much for this fabulous post that not only shares the award winning mosaics from the 2011 MAI but also offers such wonderful comments about the art. As I continue in my quest to bring contemporary mosaics to the attention of the national media and museum curators I am so pleased to be able to share your informative and enthusiastic words.

  6. Maureen

    No other word than WOW!

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