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It has been over six months since we lasted visited what is quickly becoming the mosaic Mecca of South America, Puente Alto Chile, in “A Natural History Museum in Mosaic Rises in Chile: Isidora Paz López.”
Since then, under the continued direction of Ms. López, a team of up to 60 artists has applied a total of over 3,100 square meters of mosaic to the concrete jungle of a light rail system that bifurcates the town even as it links it to the capital city of Santiago.
What was once three drab metro stations and 84 eye-numbing track support columns is now a shimmering, vibrant, visually stunning celebration of the area’s flora, fauna and history. And, thanks to the city’s unparalleled commitment to mosaic, it is continuing to grow in exciting new ways. More on that later.
In this article, we’ll update you on what is happening in Puente Alto and pay homage to the incredible team that Ms. López continually praises for their artistic and personal contributions to the project.
But first a brief history (which is by no means a substitute for the original article here). In 2011, Ms. López, an artist trained in ceramic and new to mosaic, took on a project to mosaic the external walls of Puente Alto’s sports stadium. The results were so well received that the city’s mayor, Manuel José Ossandón approached López with a new challenge – the metro stations and pillars – and a deadline – completion by the end of Ossandón’s tenure – a little over one year.
Daunted but inspired, López dreamed a very big dream – to use this space to “wake up” the people of Puente Alto to their precious natural and historical heritages. The pillars would become an outdoor natural museum. The station walls would tell compelling stories of Puente Alto’s history.
While the deadline was missed (by just a few weeks) López’ goal of inspiring a community has been met – so much so that new challenges have been given her. But we’ll get to that a little later. Let’s get on with that update.
Arguably the most captivating portion of the metro mosaics project, each of the pillars is a work of art in and of itself. López and her team developed a visual language and structured palette that links the 84 pillars together. Each starts with a photograph which is then translated into a drawing applied directly to the pillar.
The smallest cat in the Americas, the guiña has been classified as “Vulnerable” by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature because of its rapidly vanishing numbers. Here we see the project’s commitment to educating the town’s residents about what López refers to as “the treasure” of the region.
A thick black line of grout around the principal figures gives a visual “pop” that pulls them forward to the viewer.
As you can see from the captions, a creative hierarchy has been developed that closely mirrors the way the ancient Romans worked. The labor is divided between artists responsible for design, the more skilled artisans who complete the principal figures and finally the mighty background artists whose work can often make or break a mosaic.
The work is so fine and so exacting, that it is difficult to believe that everything is done on site – rain, shine or snow – using simple nippers and often standing on platforms.
There are so many beautiful pillars, we found it difficult to pick which ones to show in the limited space here. Before we move along to the splendid stations, here are two more that we found particularly charming . . .
The Three Stations
It all started with the Elisa Correa Station, the first metro stop in Puente Alto. Here, López chose to capture the grandeur of the Andes mountains. One side of the station is devoted to sunrise on the snowcapped peaks, the other to sunset.
The design for the Sótero de Rio Station was inspired by metro riders who use this station to access the public hospital nearby. López:
There is a lot of traffic in this station – people going to and from the hospital – and most of the time they are very sad. We decided to take a deeper look into the mountains and their waters, trying to create a space of peace and healing. Recently, an ancient bridge – hundreds of years old – was discovered. We included it as a symbol of the passage from life to death – the light at the end of the tunnel.
The third station, Protectora de la Infancia speaks to the town’s agricultural heritage and is also an homage to the House of Orphans, Protectora de la Infancia which for over 100 years has provided for the welfare and education of children in need. Originally run by a group of nuns, the organization continues to thrive today as a non-profit.
240 square meters of mosaic were applied to the station. It was completed in six weeks by a team of 27 people.
The Trinchera Wall
The final portion of the metro mosaics is a long cement wall that follows the point where the metro goes underground. Appropriately, the Trinchera design pays respect to the Puente Alto’s historical railroad. It also celebrates the “new” Puente Alto with a giant replica of the city’s shield.
A City on Fire for Mosaic
Trinchera is still a work in progress but, when complete, will bring the total mosaic surfacing in Puente Alto to over 4,000 square meters – all of it sponsored by and paid for by the Municipality of Puente Alto.
The response from the community has been tremendous. López reports that every day while the crew has been working, residents have stopped by to check on on their progress and comment on how beautiful the mosaics are. Some have even been inspired to gather shards at the end of the day for their own mosaics. A town once discounted as a “poor relation” to Santiago now has a point of pride in “acres” of beautiful art.
Everything about this project has been audacious – from its inception as the first art to be incorporated in a metro station in Chile to its size (it is easily the largest mosaic installation in South America) – from the astonishing development of a group of relative newcomers to mosaic into an art-making machine to its giant, beautiful, beating graphic heart in representing the “treasures” of Puente Alto.
Isidora Paz López , new mayor German Codina, and the City of Puente Alto have more plans for mosaic. In January of 2014, the City will host an international mosaic project.
While details are still being worked out, we can tell you this:
The Municipality of Puente Alto, Chile is commissioning 60 mosaic artists from around the world to come together in January 2014 to transform the city’s town square. The 1st International Mosaic Project is part of Puente Alto’s plan to become the center of contemporary mosaic public art in South America. Selected artists will be paid a stipend ($1,000 US) and will be hosted by the people of Puente Alto. The Project will be directed by Isidora Paz Lopez.
That is ALL we know at this point; the application process and communications lines are still being developed. Please watch MAN’s Facebook Page and Twitter feed for updates when we have them. We are definitely counting our frequent flyer miles.
Gracias to Isidora Paz López, her wonderful crew and the City of Puente Alto, Chile for expanding our vision of what public art can and SHOULD be – artful, uplifting, educational and eternal.
Enjoy – Nancie
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- More photos of the project can be found on López’ Facebook Page www.facebook.com/isidorapaz