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MAN readers already know regular contributor Lillian Sizemore for her scholarly (Lod 2.0) and sleuthy (Miss Marble) ways. What we haven’t seen on MAN here before is her art. Sizemore’s sumptuous mosaic mandalas encapsulate the many pursuits that Sizemore throws her head and heart into so magnificently. The spiritual, the intellectual, the “mosaical”, the geometrical, the historical – all come together so seamlessly in one of her works that it can be difficult to get one’s mind around everything that is going on in one of them. That’s why we were happy to discover this interview on the “Bodies in Space” blog which is described as “the go-to space on the web devoted to celebrating whole brain, whole body, whole minded solutions to the 21st century call for problem solving.” Our thanks to interviewer Dr. M.A. Greenstein (aka Dr. G) and Sizemore.
Bodies in Space Explores Dispatch by Dr. G.
As the intersecting campaigns for “brain awareness” and “mindfulness” continue to grow, so do friendships! I had the whimsical chance to meet Bay Area – based artist Lillian Sizemore by way of our mutually held passions for all things brainy, mindful and design smart. Through our dialogues, I was re-introduced to an art form not entertained since my early undergrad days in UCLA’s art history ancient and medieval courses! As a “back to the future” kind of gal, I’ll admit my aesthetic interests lean more to high tech gidgets and gadgets, but the cultural, material and spatial insights that Sizemore brings to working with mosaics — well I just had to share the love!
For those of you familiar with Lillian Sizemore’s art practice, you will learn more about her deep love and insights into the perennial theme of cosmic “wholeness.” For those you unfamiliar Sizemore’s opus, welcome to the history and tactile rich practice of mosaic arts! Here’s your chance to discover the inner workings of a 3-D art and design process that taps somatosensory intelligence, quiet mind / flow states, archetypal imagination and spatial reasoning!
Dr. G: Do you think about mosaic patterning in spatial terms – meaning, do you think about relationship of spatial pattern, spatial shapes, dimensionally? If you do, how do you do that?
L.S. A new work first comes to me as color. Then I get a hit about pattern or number. Then I see it dimensionally. When I’m conceiving a mandala work, I think about a geometric form or a numbered radiation that appeals to me, like 11, or 6 around 1, or 8… I’m not even sure why. The finished pieces are very textured. My work is not sculpture but it is definitely 3-D.
I’ve been making mosaics for over 15 years, initially working with the broken tile technique, and for the past 12 years, employing classical Italian techniques with mixed media. I’m experimenting with materials, so the surfaces of the works become like tiny landscapes or cityscapes—places you can travel to with the eye; the mind’s eye. When I was a little kid, I’d lay in bed and look up at the the curtains and find faces and shapes and worlds in there…sometimes I’d find them again the next day, like old friends. I look at my mosaics like that. Finding the old friends, correcting the weird parts, constantly adjusting. Mosaics are best viewed from a distance because of the pixelated quality. But I like to make the works interesting on a micro-scale too…like I said, so you can dive in and get lost in the spatial adventure.
I also think about the “sixth sense”, that is the etheric body – I’m very interested in the selection of materials, and how these resonate and work together. I’m drawn to minerals and gemstones. I experiment with setting up a certain vibration in each work and this transfers into the etheric dimension of the viewer. This doesn’t happen in an intellectual way. I don’t plan all this out in advance. I use my intuition, and an inner guidance tells me what materials to use or seek out, based on the color and pattern idea initiated at the inception of the piece. I don’t just go to the store and buy materials when I’m creating a new piece…I let things come to me, and they do.
My pieces usually take years to complete, in part because often the materials can take a very long time to “come to me” and then I need to spend more time familiarizing myself with them. For instance, for 7 x 12 I hand selected every piece of amethyst from collectors who had just returned from South America. Once I had the pieces, I had to get to know them – to get their permission – to let them tell me where they fit into the geometry.
I make mosaics AS mosaics. There is no ‘cartoon’ in the traditional sense, no painting to be “interpreted”. My work springs from a response to materiality itself. This is something that “The Father of Modern Mosaics”, Gino Severini (1886-1966) talked about in a lecture that I recently translated. The Italian artist was insistent that the medium itself have the final say. Think of any of my mandalas as paintings for instance — they can only BE mosaic, the modulation of light on the surface is critical to what it has become and what I try to communicate through the combination of materials and cuts. It is a “discontinuity” of surface that I’m after.
My methods are still in progress, and it is my message of wholeness, and the reaction to geometric universality that supersedes my technical transgressions. I am still a student and always will be.
Oh, mosaics have offered so many insights! I have worked in many media (painting, clay, photography, printmaking, graphic design) but mosaics have thoroughly captured my attention for the past 15 years. I think it is the slowing down, the meditative quality of placing each piece by piece… Interestingly, insights come from not only in doing my own work, but equally from looking at mosaics as well. I learn a lot that way. I’ve been researching and delving into observation of the pattern and tesselations of ancient works. This deep looking has spurred me on into another phase of my career and work. I’m currently exploring the intentional underlying geometries of the Greco-Roman mosaic pavements. These geometric pavements have been considered purely decorative, but I suggest they have much more to tell us about the philosophical, mathematical and esoteric knowledge within the ancient mystery schools, and how spatial knowledge was transmitted.
So much of what modern science is confirming today, was alive in the ancient world. Not to romanticize, but I see their connection to nature and the cosmos as fundamental, and I see this experience reflected in the art and patterning. Today we see these same geometric patterns employed in nanotechnology and the mathematical analysis of tessellations and 3-dimensional solids. As for the studies in creativity and flow, there’s scientific evidence that meditation, slowing down, taking in sunlight, and even looking at flowers can enhance our memories, or help to cope with stress or pain. These geometries live within us, supporting an optimal way of being…it’s very important to acknowledge this, both through art and through science.
Mosaics are certainly a visual medium but also one that works with relationships of space, dimensionality and spatial perception. Of the images you’re showing, which spatial aspects do you LIKE? How do they capture the spirit of your own thinking, (whether it has to do with space or not); and what is it you’re after in these images? Was spatial perception or reasoning any part of that?
Mosaics, by definition, are made up of small, individual bits, composed into a larger picture. I feel mosaics speak to a certain contemporary zeitgeist. Our world is seriously fractured right now — the archetypal story of individuation can be compared to fragmented elements being made whole again. We can’t heal the world until we heal ourselves. Terry Tempest Williams wrote about using mosaics for this purpose after 9-11, in her book “Finding Beauty in a Broken World”. C. G. Jung dedicated his life to research of psychological fragmentation building toward wholeness. He is renowned for work with mandalas, or the “sacred circle” – which is my chosen point of departure in my artwork. I have selected works for Bodies in Space that exhibit this desire for wholeness. I use dimensionality of the surface, juxtaposition of color and texture and how the mind’s eye “completes the sentence.” I use gemstones that reflect the natural world.
I would say Diamond Heart inspired a new direction in my work, deepening my commitment to working in harmony with universal principles and subtle-level potentials. It took a couple of years to finish and I was very critical of myself and really down on how long the piece took to complete, but through that waiting, the right materials came to me as gifts.
It’s an emotional piece — it’s dedicated to my dad who passed away after open heart surgery. Rose quartz is said to be the heart stone and represents unconditional love. According to principles of sacred geometry, number 11 represents mystery, the portal between above and below, heaven and earth.
The piece titled VOX took me deeper into this trust. I knew I wanted to work with 8-fold geometric design. I had a pale color-way in mind: the metallic pyrite, soft blue calcite, and cool white marble… but everything else had to fall in place. Through my research in mid-century mosaics I befriended many artist’s families and old masters, so this piece has five different shades of vintage gold that I’ve collected from various estates.
The edging is 110-year old copper that came from the roof of a San Francisco Windmill, bequeathed to me by a master metalsmith from England. The mother of pearl was another gift at just the right moment. As it turns out, most of the materials are associated with the throat chakra. This chakra or energy center is associated with communication, self-expression, and speaking truth. I was not conscious of this as I selected materials, nor the number 8, but when I looked into the meanings I was surprised at the harmony of it all, so I titled it VOX, which means “Voice” in Latin.
I’ve noticed when people meet this work in person they have the impulse to open their hands toward the mosaic, as if warming themselves by a fire on a chilly evening. This is the highest compliment I could ever imagine.
Since you are interested in meditation and the brain, have any aspects of mindfulness or the brain filtered into your thinking about these works or how you made these works – or impacted how you made these works specifically?
I believe art is a healing force, so I try to bring my highest self to the task. I enter my studio with reverence, light some nice incense, ring my Tibetan bowl to harmonize the vibration of the room. I give thanks. As I begin working, typically with hammer and hardie, the old school tools, I center myself and breathe mindfully. These tools require a mindful approach. I ask all the mosaicisti who have come before to join and guide me to our highest purpose. …. I am very honored and humbled to be able to channel this work. My work unfolds over long periods of time. My newest piece, 7 x 12 (seen above) is another experiment in pattern, mindfulness, materiality and vibration. Amethysts called out to me, and so I’m mosaic midwife to the dark heart of the geode.
This interview was conducted for the Bodiesinspace Explores / Artist of the Month column on Bodiesinspace.com – a blogger’s alley published by GGI, an arts & science think tank delivering the power and wisdom of truly applied neuroscience into the hands of learners and leaders!
All images ©2012 Lillian Sizemore, all rights reserved
Sizemore’s scholarly and sleuthy contributions to MAN here