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