Since we’re in the middle of creating the “New MAN”, looking back at what you liked best (how many times an article was viewed on Blogspot) in 2011 is an especially useful exercise. The results were both surprising and not-so-surprising. It would be wonderful to hear what you think about the past year on MAN, so if you have a moment, please let us know what was most valuable to you on MAN this past year by leaving a comment. Don’t forget to click to enlarge these photos.
Number 10 – Bernice Steinbaum’s Exhibition in Print
This article showcased one work by each of the five mosaic artists selected by the esteemed gallerist (and fashionista) Bernice Steinbaum for MAN’s 2011 Exhibition in Print. She also provided us with comments on each artist and thoughts about the art world in general which made for some very interesting reading:
The art world is an imperfect place. Museums exhibit artwork; art periodicals critique it; collectors collect it; critics criticize it; auction houses provide a secondary market for it; and commercial galleries supply a retail mechanism. It is an arcane and elitist system of interlocking patronage that has not changed in the past one hundred years.
If you are interested in seeing the complete 2011 Exhibition in Print sponsored by LATICRETE featuring three works and artist statements from each of the eight selected artists plus additional articles about contemporary mosaics, you can order the magazine here. And yes, this is a shameless plug on behalf of publisher Michael Welch.
Number 9 – Emma Biggs and Matthew Collings’ Exhibition in Print
This article covered the selections of our second set of judges for the Exhibition in Print–the seriously dynamic duo of Emma Biggs and Matthew Collings. Biggs is an internationally shown and beloved mosaic artist, teacher and author. Her husband, Matthew Collings is an art critic and painter well known in the UK for his books and movies which have appeared on the BBC2. Together, they make beautiful paintings. See their work here.
Like Ms. Steinbaum, these judges supplied us with interesting commentary about how they made their selections including this excerpt:
Effective image making is an enquiry, often experimental. It could result in a humorous or ironic proposal. It could be deeply serious. It is possible to combine humour and serious intent. For MAN’s Exhibition in Print, Matthew and I selected work we felt was genuinely exploratory, in which the outcome of the experiment was unknown to the maker when he or she began.
Haven’t ordered the magazine yet? There’s a site for that here.
Number 8 – Ilana Shafir Honored with Solo Exhibition at RavennaMosaico 2011
Apparently, you all love Ilana Shafir’s work as much as we do. This article showcased all the work shown in Ommagio a Ilana Shafir during the international contemporary mosaic festival RavennaMosaico.
Number 7 – Riding the Peacock: Sara Baldwin and New Ravenna
We’re not surprised that this interview with Sara Baldwin, founder of New Ravenna Mosaics, was such a favorite. Her joie de vivre and commitment to “Anything is possible!” is contagious. Baldwin is also an excellent mosaic designer and entrepreneur, making beautiful artisanal mosaics in the United States when many competitors are sending work off-shore.
Number 6 – My Art Is A Burning Fire In My Heart: John Botica’s Magnificent Pebble Mosaics
This two-part profile of New Zealand pebble mosaicist John Botica left many of you in awe–as well it should have. Not only is his work technically exquisite and visually stunning, he has been successful in authentically tapping into the spirit of Maori people whose tribal mythology serves as the subject matter for the majority of his work. See Part 1 here and Part 2 here
We are grateful to fellow New Zealander and mosaic artist Con Kiernan for his collaboration in making this article happen on MAN.
Number 5 – The Mosaic Skulls of Andres Basurto
Internet sleuthing turned up an exhibit in New York featuring the work of Mexican born artist Andres Basurto. Constructed of shards from glass bottles that at one time held wine and beer, Basurto creates “specific shapes that evoke the human skull and skeleton as a container of the soul.” This MAN article attracted many first-time visitors which is very, very encouraging.
Number 4 – Splendor in Mosaic: Carole Choucair Oueijan’s The Emigrant Trail
In 2009, Carole Choucair Oueijan was commissioned by the City of Temecula, CA to create a 7 x 10 foot mosaic for their new 95,000 sq ft, $73 million dollar City Hall. Her spectacular Emigrant Trail, designed to commemorate the City’s rich history as a gateway to The West, was unveiled to the public on December 9th of 2010.
We don’t often do “how to” articles here on MAN, but Ouiejan had done such a spectacular job of chronicling the her “trail” in the making of this extraordinary mosaic we proudly covered it here. We would happily do it again on MAN with the right project, but you have to admit, Ouiejan will be a tough act to follow.
We love it that this article had such a large response. This online auction of over original 125 mosaics was spawned in the brilliant mind of Lin Schorr of Lin Schorr Mixed Mosaics. We took a walk through the online exhibit and selected nine works to comment on by artists Isabelle de Sa Moreira (France), Kelly Knickerbocker (USA), Helen Nock (UK), Ayka Bumin (Turkey), Carol Shelkin (USA), Luz Mack-Durini (USA), and Flair Robinson.
Number 2 – SAMA’s Best: Mosaic Arts International 2011
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.
Additional work featured in this article was by winners Julie Richey, Kimberly Schonfeld, Laurel True, Lenni Gilbert, Drucilla Perez-Tubens, and Michael Kruzich
Number 1 – A Bright Moment for Mosaics: Judy Chicago to Write Foreword for Book on Broca’s Queen Esther Series
By far and away the most viewed MAN article for 2011 was this one announcing Judy Chicago’s participation in a book about a series of mosaics by artist Lilian Broca. Why? Because The Power of Google is a wonderful thing. And, because Broca’s art sparked the interest of a feminist art icon over 7,000 people who probably have never considered contemporary mosaics in the context of the larger art world landed here on a website devoted to them. We hope they stuck around for more . . .
And, we hope you will stick around for more in 2012. In these 10 posts alone, we covered the work of 31 mosaic artists and we’re proud of that. Our sincere thanks to all of the artists, photographers and writers who contributed to MAN in 2011. Here’s wishing us all a healthy, happy and art-filled 2012.
Again, if you have a moment, we would appreciate hearing what you found most valuable here in 2011. Please leave a comment.
One more thing before 2011 slips away . . . Let’s keep the numbers growing and spread the contemporary mosaic love even further. Please consider forwarding this post or any of the articles noted here on to someone you think should know more about this art form.
- Bernice Steinbaum’s Exhibition in Print here
- Emma Biggs & Matthew Collings’ Exhibition in Print here
- Ilana Shafir Honored with Solo Exhibition at RavennaMosaico 2011 here
- Riding the Peacock: Sara Baldwin and New Ravenna here
- My Art Is A Burning Fire In My Heart: John Botica Part 1 here
- My Art Is A Burning Fire In My Heart: John Botica Part Two here
- The Mosaic Skulls of Andres Basurto here
- Splendor in Mosaic: Carole Choucair Oueijan’s The Emigrant Trail here
- Let The Bidding Begin! Doctors Without Borders mosaic Auction Opens Today here
- SAMA’s Best: Mosaic Arts International 2011 here
- A Bright Moment for Mosaics: Judy Chicago to Write Foreward for Book on Broca’s Queen Esther Series here
It is a snake, that timeless symbol of power, resurrection and rebirth that has center stage position on the title panel for Aida Valencia’s current exhibit at the Institute for Culture in Tijuana, Mexico.
Entitled Renacer (Reborn) this reptile serves as a perfect introduction to this collection of works that is all about how human beings chose to respond to what Valencia says is the forward movement of mankind in the universe. The word motus is Latin for “motion” and here the word serves as Valencia’s manifesto to “Move over! Think! Act! Be free! Live life! Say good bye to routine!”
The mosaic Renacer is also Valencia as artist in a nutshell. Here are the vibrant colors of her Mexican cultural heritage combined with her signature youthful exuberance and the thoughtful use of organic elements in telling a visual story. Says the artist:
The gold, red and amber colors are very important because the red is fire, the amber is love and the gold is the light we need to force our light and love to do everything!
. . . we think that would be a mistake. Valencia’s serpent is all about her muse motus. Renancer is a great mascot for the artful playground that Valencia has created at the Institute of Culture where exhibit goers are invited to shed their every day lives–or skins–to move forward and live life to its fullest and in doing so, make the world a better place.. Here is how Valencia speaks of her inspiration for the exhibit:
The day of the opening, November 11, 2011 was for some one of the important days of humanity. We have the opportunity to change the course of our world. All around the world, people prayed and united to embrace the light of the dawn on that special day.
Suspended from the ceiling, the kinetic sculpture Cielo Rojo (above) does appear to dominate the exhibit space. Valencia designed this piece so that as the aluminum “waves” move up and down, the smalti-covered discs dangling from them capture to the light.
Of this work, Valencia says:
I wanted the spectator to change their point of view of looking at my work by forcing them to look up. The movement of the piece is how mankind moves with the flow. Red is the heart of Humanity that can change everything!
The diptych Equilibrio(Equilibrium) is a very literal take on Valencia’s theme of motion and finding balance in one’s life.
This piece represents the balance we need between our Soul and our Body. On one side it says, “Todo el poder” or “All the power.” On the other, it says “Sabiduria” which means “Wisdom.” So, to have power, you need wisdom, but nothing comes of either Power or Wisdome if you don’t have balance in your life.
While another diptych, Vital,uses color and form to indicate what spiritual balance can look like.
In a third diptych, Creación Cosmica(Cosmic Creation) Valencia takes a look at the movement of the cosmos.
Her circular smalti stars and planets are carried on a river of precisely cut white stained glass placed on a rippling surface.
Cosmic Creation is the beginning of the Earth as we know it, The lighted piece represents the planet and how mankinds’s activities make it special in the universe.
While the lighted stone could be dismissed as a gimmick, it works for us here. Valencia’s Earth is brightly alive with all of mankind’s activities – a major theme throughout the exhibit. Valencia has also placed a nice visual counterbalance to the Earth stone with the crystal to be found in the lower right hand corner of the right panel.
There are many more works in this exhibit, including several that invite the gallery goer to initiate some “movement” of their own.
Photo courtesy Patty Roa
Institute of Culture, Tijuana Mexico
The mosaic above, Unspoken 10.22.10 – 07.07.11 by Samantha Holmes caused a bit of a stir here at MAN when we covered it as one of the winners of Ravenna’s Young Artists and Mosaic (GAEM) competition at the Art Museum of Ravenna in our November 18th feature: “Rewarding Innovation in Contemporary Mosaics.”
Holmes’ work won the award for Use of Unconventional Materials and Techniques and unconventional it is – much to the consternation of several good friends. By golly, they said, that’s no mosaic. Well, let’s revisit the description of the work from the GAEM catalog curated by Linda Kniffitz, curator of the International Center for the Documentation of Mosaic.
Unspoken 10.22.10 – 07.07.11 is essentially a wooden (smalti) sample board for mosaicists, but instead of samples of coloured glass, its ledges house sheets of printed or hand-written paper, folded and fastened with a piece of knotted wire.
The sheets are laid alongside each other in horizontal sequences reminiscent of the arrangement of tesserae in the andamento of a mosaic. The work has strong conceptual value, the sheets represent the flows of communication that failed or were interrupted due to the New York artist’s linguistic difficulties during her initial period in Italy.
We do hope you will go to the previous post to read Ms. Holmes explanation of Unspoken but – the operative word in Ms. Kniffitz’ catalog description is“conceptual.”
Ravenna–the Mother Ship of Mosaic with a curatorial devotion to it’s 5th century Byzantine gems and a strict, educational commitment to the grammar and technology of mosaic traditions–is equally devoted to innovation in mosaic. The GAEM competition brief gave mosaicists absolute licence to explore, play and expand upon mosaic traditions and concepts. Which is exactly what Ms. Holmes did and why she won the prize she did.
All right. Enough of the Is-It-Or-Isn’t-It-Mosaic debate. Frankly, we’re tired of it–probably because we can’t seem to find a definition that we’re comfortable with–absolutes being contrary to our nature.
More important to us is the Is-It-Or-Isn’t-It-Good-Art question. Innovation for innovation’s sake is easy. What set Ms. Holmes work apart for the GAEM jurors was her use of the concepts and traditions of the mosaic medium in a visual representation of the challenges and frustrations she faced while trying to communicate in her new home.
Thanks to the generous George Fishman of the Mosaic of Art, you can now hear Ms. Holmes herself talk about her artistic journey to Ravenna and her personal exploration of what “home” really is through the medium of mosaic. The expat/art nomad is thoughtful, eloquent, and inspiring.
Click here and you will be able to hear the interview at the same time you view the photos.
Again, our thanks to George Fishman for allowing us to publish the interview. We’re looking forward to the return of The Mosaic of Art!
Enjoy – Nancie
You may not know this, but there are actually two American Museums of Natural History (AMNH) in New York City. There is the one hiding in plain sight at the corner of 79th and Central Park West.
And then, there is the second AMNH, the one buried deep in the earth directly beneath the museum – an extensive collection of mosaics and reliefs that cover the walls, stairwells, and floors in the 81st Street Subway Station. For Want of a Nail (2000) was a collaborative effort between MTA Arts for Transit and AMNH designed to mimic the key disciplines explored in the museum above. The title refers to an old proverb that speaks to how small actions can have large consequences – like the loss of a species.
with the shadow of a pigeon (passenger pigeon?) behind it,
We contacted GrrlScientist, who characterizes herself as an evolutionary biologist, ornithologist and writer, to find out more about the project. She very kindly answered all of our questions and gave us permission to repost her photos and captions for you here.
Of course. There’s always something to photograph, especially in NYC. Besides, carrying a camera also carries the obligation to actually look around for something to photograph, so it makes me actually pay attention to the world around me instead of just rushing around.
Which is one of the reasons why we are addicted to our new mobile phone.
Ladybugs, Coleoptera species
These ladybugs are an excellent example of how the artists (Arts for Transit Collaborative) turned a design problem – integrating oddly shaped mosaics into a gridded field of white tiles – into an asset. The andamento of the tiles surrounding these insects is designed not just to fill space, but to indicate the movement and connectedness that one sees in a swarm of ladybugs in real life. (And yes, it is a “swarm” These mosaics made us get our science on!)
GrrlScientist points out that several of the animals have question marks worked into the designs. It is curious.
Our guess is that the question marks may allude to the fact that these species are on the endangered list – their fate still uncertain.
Another design element in For Want of A Nail is that subjects are often found in likely places, like this garden spider placed up in a corner.
And this snake (some kind of boa?) hanging from a signage ledge.
For Want of A Nail also includes areas devoted to geology and earth sciences. Here, you see a stairwell that GrllScientist calls “A journey to the center of the earth.”
When asked which mosaic was her favorite, GrrlScientist told us it is the first one she published, the coealanth. “I think it is just stunning.”
Huge thanks to GrrlScientist for allowing us to publish her photos and captions. We highly recommend that you follow her blog at The Guardian http://www.guardian.co.uk/grrlscientist. She’s got a spunky voice that makes science approachable and birds, in particular, fascinating.
Enjoy – Nancie
- GrrlScientist’s “A Brief History of the Subway Tile Art at 81st and CPW (AMNH Station)” post here
- Jeremy Cox’ (aka “Subway Nut”) extensive photo catalog of the AMNH station and more MTA art here
- MTA’s description of For Want of a Nail here
- American Museum of Natural History here
- “For Want of a Nail” Wikipedia analysis here