We are great fans of Helen Miles, the very fine Scottish artist who currently resides in Greece. Her classically inspired mosaics (like the portrait of her husband, David, above) charm us and her exquisite writing never fails to inspire us. If you want to know how the mosaically obsessed walk through the world, read on. We thank Miles for the opportunity to repost this article from her blog. Enjoy – Nancie
All summer I felt bereft; longing for mosaics, pining for my studio, aching for the peace and purpose of my work. Every summer I am obliged by the tradition of nine-week-long school holidays to down my tools and go where family and heart and other people’s needs direct me. We always go to Scotland, sometimes driving through Europe, sometimes stopping in England, once striking off eastwards to Turkey or simply staying in our little hillside house on the Greek mountain of Pelion and hanging out on the beach.
There is much to appreciate about the summers. For all their broken-upness, the two days here, three days there nature of them, they allow us all to reconnect. I see old friends, spend time with my increasingly decrepid parents and visit my favourite places. But nonetheless I feel bereft because I can’t be making mosaics.
Usually I compensate for the lack of mosaic time by dragging my reluctant boys to obscure (or not so obscure) mosaic sites. I tailor the summers to make sure our road trips take in mosaic places that otherwise I might never get to see. Over the years we’ve been to Aquileia, Rome, Ravenna, Venice, and even slogged across the Anatolian plains to visit Zeugma. This year there were no such opportunities. We stayed in London for two nights and I snatched a few hours to see Tessa Hunkin at work on a new project with her Hackney Mosaic Project volunteers, but other than that, the entire summer, all 63 days and counting, were entirely mosaic free.
But fortunately for me, there’s no world without mosaics. Mosaics are really nothing but the slow and deliberate accumulation of parts, the materials change, the way of achieving that accumulation changes, but essentially they all boil down to the same thing – to pattern, line, movement, form. So, bereft of mosaics, I found them everywhere. We use them to build walls, to shore up seas, to protect our cattle or our kings.
We see them in the flow of rivers, the line of hills, the shapes of plants and the markings of feathers and shells. We find patterns in the greatest of all human achievements – in mathematics, in music, in poetry, in architecture – they are essential to the way we exist. Codes, chess, mazes, maps, textiles – all, when you strip away the wrapping, are nothing more than patterns and lines. This summer, watching a performance at the Edinburgh Festival, I even saw mosaics in the choreography of the dancers’ moves – that fluid crescent, the perfect curve of energy, muscle and motion.
Without my own mosaics to focus on, I found my mosaic antennae constantly zinging and pinging, alerting me to real and imagined mosaics. I couldn’t stroll down a street, lie on the beach, go on a country walk, visit a museum or do any of the other myriad ordinary things that the summer entails without finding an actual mosaic or a mosaic connection. On the Sydenham High Street in London, lined with funeral parlours and fast food outlets, I looked up and found this decorating a public building:
Visiting an English Heritage house in Herefordshire, I was delighted to see this:
These casual, incidental mosaics like this one at an Edinburgh shop threshold, remind me that mosaics aren’t an esoteric, weird out-there kind of thing, but something that all kinds of people in all kinds of ways have sought for and appreciated from those Roman banqueteers adorning their dining floors to 19th century country gentlemen on their grand tours to our own elected councillors thinking how to brighten a dull facade.
Nature, of course, does it best.
Nature is the one that gave us mosaics in the first place (a leopard’s coat, a peacock’s display, a fish’s dappled markings) and then gave us stone. When that mosaic antennae of mine was pinging about but sending no signals back, I found stone, that lovely neglected stuff, to relish in. I got up early to really look at the stones that line our favourite beach and found that once I started looking there was more and more to see:
It turns out that once you stop you can’t fail to notice that the process of life, the slow erosion of all we build and create, produces it’s own mosaics. Paint weathers in the rain, street tiles break, porcelain acquires an exquisite patina of cracks:
Nature can’t seem to help itself – there’s a constant need to break out, push up, slide in. It’s what we do when we make mosaics, fitting parts around other parts and once we see that there is no world without mosaics, we see that that’s precisely what’s going on around us:
In the process of my mosaic finding I discovered too that my brother, well into middle age and living quietly on the shores of Loch Fyne on Scotland’s west coast, is busy making his own version of mosaics – cutting out random quotations from the Bible and sticking them with that restless obsessive mosaic making urge, onto styrofoam balls:
Add in my mother’s knitting and my great grandfather’s embroidery and you can see that my mosaic thang runs deep and strong:
Dear reader, I must confess that I was so determined to show you that there is no world without mosaics I went so far as to take a rather elegant photograph of sheep’s poo in a field in Perthshire but on the off chance that you are eating your breakfast, I thought I’d leave you with this rather more salubrious photograph of beachnut casings:
Mosaics by Helen Miles:
Having broken through the modern mosaic barrier at the Victoria and Albert Museum with a four-wheeled, two-ton protest against the death penalty, (Entering Through the Gift Shop: Carrie Reichardt’s “Tiki Love Truck” at the V&A” ), craftivist Carrie Reichardt was given the extraordinary opportunity to expand her role in the museum’s ground-breaking Disobedient Objects exhibit (July 25, 2014 – February 1, 2015) with a project that would transform the front of that venerable institution.
Asked by the V&A’s Director and Curators to create something “playful, provocative and sincere”, Reichardt designed a full-frontal installation comprising two panels and the risers of the steps leading up to the front doors of the museum.
It was a brilliant stroke by the V&A, really. Some exhibits are promoted with banners. Others with posters. With Reichardt’s mosaics, the Disobedient Objects exhibit literally spilled out of the galleries and onto the museum’s front steps. According to Curator Catherine Flood, the final visitor figures were 417,000 making Disobedient Objects the most visited exhibition at the V&A since “Britain Can Make It” in 1946.
While many of objects inside the exhibit were artifacts, The Disobedient Mosaic Intervention was artful political activism live.
The design of the two panels was a collaborative process that included the curators for Disobedient Objects, Gavin Grindon and Catherine Flood, each of whom selected a quote for one of the panels.
Reichardt’s use of digital transfers to create custom tiles for each of her mosaics is at the core of her activist aesthetic. She blends the profane and prosaic to enormous effect in these two panels. The British pound note with the visage of the Queen fills the visor of a baton-wielding riot policeman, surveillance cameras loom and England’s ubiquitous poppies bloom. At the bottom of each panel, a “groundswell” of protest from the people; at the top energy based on the conflict below radiates outward.
We love Reichardt’s idea to use the risers on the steps of the museum to display some of her favorite quotes. The format immediately calls to mind how ticker tapes and thin strips of paper attached to carrier pigeons were once used to transmit urgent news about disasters, conflicts and possibilities.
“Think for yourself – act for others” is what has driven Carrie Reichardt to take her message of art as empowerment to disenfranchised communities in Mexico, Chile, Romania and into the marginal neighborhoods of the UK. Kudos to the V&A for giving this artist and the Treatment Rooms Collective the opportunity to turn the facade of the museum into a modern day “Speakers Corner” as part of their Disobedient Objects exhibit.
Mosaic Intervention at the V&A (2014) Made by the Treatment Rooms Collective: Luke Allen, Gary Drostle, Mark Drostle, Eoghan Ebrill, Linda Griffiths, Gabrielle Harvey-Smith, Liam Heyhow, Peter Henham, Kevin O’Donohue, Carrie Reichardt, Thayen Rich, Sian Wonnish Smith, Cerdic Thomas, Liam Thomas, Karen Wydler, Mark Wydler.
Video of Reichard’s presentation on the Intervention at The British Association for Modern Mosaic’s 2015 Forum
- Previous stories about Carrie Reichardt on MAN
- Carrie Reichardt
- Disobedient Objects Exhibit (which will be traveling to Australia later this year)
Video walk-through of the Disobedient Objects Exhibit with Curator Gavin Grindon
- February 2016 interview by Rosie Osborne on Free Spirit Homes here
We want them all. The Leopard. The Hippo. The Bear. The Llama . . . We want the whole zoological catalogue in stone by Melissa Moliterno and Andrea Poma of Aneme Mosaico.
Animals have always been the subject of mosaics.
But, Aneme Mosaico’s enchanting images were something completely new to us. Their fresh, unique approach to the subject matter immediately brought to mind the exquisite watercolor illustrations of the 1700s and 1800s.
And indeed, according to the duo . . .
“Our works are based on the careful study of the materials and colors, on the the ability to synthesize ancient mosaic techniques with the zoological catalogues of the 19th century.”
Moliterno (Cosenza, Italy 1988) and Poma (Parese, Italy, 1989) met while studying at the Ravenna Fine Arts Academy in Italy. They have both shown extensively, with Poma taking the prestigious Experimental Prize at GAEM 2013 for his innovative work Impressioni. We found this work to be a highlight of RavennaMosaico 2013. (Previous story on MAN here.)
Their collaboration in creating these glorious critters began in 2013. In 2014, they presented this body of work as Animalario in an exhibition in Ravenna. (You will want to click twice to see the large versions of these photos.)
“Pictures and stones, cement and blank papers are mixed, becoming a single entity. Our materials are chosen according to the shape, to their veining and to their composition. They are no longer regular tesserae, but anatomical ones; stones that become cheeks, paws, and ears.”
Yes, and just when you thought these works couldn’t get any more delightful, there is the panda.
Aneme Mosaico is offering these beautiful mosaics for 250Euro. We are not sure how many are left after the holidays and there are other, smaller works of birds that are equally spectacular. Please contact the artists at email@example.com with your questions. (We should probably make it clear that MAN has no financial arrangement with Aneme Mosaico at all.)
Enjoy – Nancie
Chartres les 3Rs, the organization which produces the biennial Les Recontres des Internationales de Mosaïque de Chartres (International Mosaic Encounters in Chartres), has announced the winners of the 2014 Prix Picassiette Prizes. With its self-selecting categories of Professional, Amateur Initiés (Advanced), Amateur and Youth & Groups, the event is a marvelous mash-up that places accomplished masters next to enthusiastic newcomers in the sublimely beautiful Chapelle du Lycée Fulbert.
This year, the Prix was supplemented by two satellite exhibits: Selected works by members of the British Association for Modern Mosaic (BAMM) and a tribute to the incomparable Ines Morigi Berti of Ravenna at Chapelle Saint-Éman which runs through January 18. Sadly, Morigi Berti, who was a revered teacher and famed mosaicist, passed away at the age of 100 on October 26th.
The Association is an extraordinarily unique organization whose 3Rs stand for Rénovar,Restaurer,Réhabiliter (Renovate, Restore, Rehabilitate). Founder Patrick Macquaire and the 3R staff are dedicated to carrying on the mosaic tradition of “The Father” of picassiette, Raymond Isidore (1900-1964) and creating an economic revival for the Chartres area. Earlier this month, Macquire spoke at BAMM’s annual Forum about the exhibition and his organization – you can see a video of his presentation here.
We thank Marquaire for providing us with the professional images of the winners seen here and send a special shout-out to the talented Stefan Wolters for his “atmospheric” photographic contributions.
- 1st Prize: Karen Ami (USA) Dialogues (above)
- 2nd Prize: Ariane Blanquet (France) Moon
- 3rd Prize: Delphine Legal Quemener (France) Pierre and Patience
- Special Mention: Dugald MacInnes (UK) Fragile Earth
Amateurs Initiés (Advanced)
- 1st Prize: Elisabeth Foucher (France) Le Poinçonneur de Lilas
- 2nd Prize: Annie Dunlop (France) Contraste
- 3rd Prize: Angela Sanders (UK) Ice
- Special Mention: Monique Duteil (France) Ko
- Special Mention: Marie-Odile Laurent (France) La Poule Aux Ouefs D’Or Musifs
- 1st Prize: Dina Angistriotu (Belgium) Mur Non Entravant
- 2nd Prize: Joelle Laudy (France) Le Migrateur
- 3rd Prize: Rosa Coupe (France) Clin d’Oeil a La Belle Dame Ancestrale Dominant La Beauce
- Special Mention: Marianne Fiette (France) Zebres Urbains
- 1st Prize: Christine Dalibert (France) “Vague”
- 2nd Prize: Gary Drostle (UK) “Shrapnel 1914 – War Is A Gun With A Worker At Each End”
- 3rd Prize: François Thibault (France) ”Autoportrait D’Apres Van Gogh”
- Special Mention: Nathalie Vin (UK) “Multiverse”
Youth and Groups
- 1st Prize: Centre d’Accueil De Jour D’Yzeure Envol La Femme A La Fleur, Hommage A Pablo Picasso
- 2nd Prize: Le colectif “Projet Theodora” D’Albi-Mosaïque Projet Theodora“
- 3rd Prize (tie): A.I.P.E.I. Empro Edelweiss Empreinte
- 3rd Prize (tie): Espace de Proximite Cite Marcel Cochin RomainVille L’Asteromainville
To celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Association 3R and the 18th anniversary of Les Recontres des Internationales de Mosaïque de Chartres, the jurors gave prizes to two ground-breaking mosaic artists, Giovanna Galli and Gerard Brand, for their noteworthy bodies of work and personal contributions to the development of mosaic.
PREVIOUSLY ON MAN
- Following the Light: Prix Picassiette 2012 by Rosetta Berardi
- Prix Picassiette 2012 Winners Announced
- Judgement at Chartres: North American Mosaicists Win at Prix Picassiette 2010
- More Mosaics from Prix Picassiette 2010
BAMM’s Mosaic of the Year 2014: Tessa Hunkin & the Hackney Mosaic Project Change A Community With Art
The Romans would have approved.
The British Association for Modern Mosaic (BAMM) recently announced that Tessa Hunkin and The Hackney Mosaic Project have received the Mosaic of the Year Award for a stunning body of work that encompasses two public installations in London; Shepherdess Walk and Hoxton Varieties.
(For full view of images, please click to enlarge)
The Jury, which consisted of Dr. Will Wooten, Lecturer in Roman Art at Kings College, Norma Vondee, President of BAMM, and your editor, was in total unison in the decision to shine a a spotlight on a series of works that are not only visually brilliant – they have changed lives.
Dr. Wooten: A Tour de force in the continued refinement of a modern visual vocabulary for figurative mosaic art.
Norma Vondee: Evergreen mosaic master at her height; relentless clarification, determination, curiosity, finish and humanity.
Nancie Mills Pipgras: Brilliant modernization of an ancient aesthetic. Clear, concise, joy-filled imagery made by volunteers. Art that has changed a neighborhood.
Hunkin, an accomplished mosaic maker and author, acted as the designer of the projects, a role the Romans called the pictor imaginarius. Her love and appreciation for the critical design components of ancient mosaics has created a lively, modern aesthetic that delights and resonates. Hunkin’s Hoxton pups are the obvious direct descendants of the hounds of the 1st Century AD.
Equally impressive to the jurors was the fact that these mosaics were all made by volunteers. The Hackney Mosaic Project is comprised of local community members and clients of Lifeline, an organization devoted to helping people recover from drug and alcohol addiction. These are mosaics made by the people for the people – and they are of astonishing quality.
Signatures of the makers are always included prominently in the design of the mosaics.
Just this week, Hunkin and The Hackney Mosaic Project unveiled their most recent accomplishment – The Hackney Downs Park Pavilion. British comedian Russell Brand positively nails the spirit of the project in this impromptu dedication.
The open-air theater is a mosaic menagerie with charming bugs and beasties of all shapes and sizes.
Another joyous, welcoming environment by Tessa Hunkin and The Hackney Mosaic Project has been added to the London landscape – thanks in great part to the Hackney Council which has funded and promoted the projects. What lackluster space will these mighty mosaic collaborators transform next?
- The Hackney Mosaic Project website
- Tessa Hunkin website
- Excellent article on Shepherdess Walk by Lillian Sizemore here
- Loving local perspective by The Gentle Author on Spitalfieldslife.com
- British Association for Modern Mosaic
- Shepherdess Walk Shepherdess Walk, London N1 7JN (Northeast Corner)
- Hoxton Varieties – Sainsbury’s Local Store, 245 Old Street EC1V 9EY (Corner of Pitfield St)
- Hackney Downs Park
We were honored when the editors of Andamento, the journal of the British Association for Modern Mosaic (BAMM), asked us to write a comprehensive article covering the magnificent achievement of Isidora Paz Lopez and her team in creating the mosaic murals of Puente Alto, Chile. With over 30 photographs, the article covers the history, inspiration and methodology of the project as well as the impact the mosaics have had on the citizens of this suburb of Santiago. It is free for you to read right here.
You can read the article by clicking on the link above, but we strongly urge you to purchase a copy of the publication to see all of the Puente Alto illustrations and to get all of the great content the publication has to offer mosaic lovers. Additional articles include:
Dissolving Into Light: The Creative Journey of Elaine M. Goodwin – Elaine M. Goodwin talking to Ilona Jesnick about how the internationally recognized artist was inspired by working with Nek Chand and transformed by an experience in the Basilica of San Vitale. Illuminating.
Tygers Burning Bright – Gregory Edwards looks in depth at two mosaic cycles in London devoted to the work of the writer William Blake; the first a 1920s series by Boris Anrep (a personal favorite) and the second an undertaking of the artists and volunteers of the splendid Southbank Mosaics. Really great reading.
Hodie Mecum Eris In Paradiso – Victorian Arts and Crafts historian Neil Moat has made a marvelous discovery; the origins of the decorative motifs later to be associated with Continental Art Nouveau in the mosaics by Messrs. Rust & Co’s mosaics at St. George’s Church. Fascinating history and beautiful photos.
This issue of Andamento is truly wonderful. Now, go buy one!
When we were first approached by the Mosaic Society of Philadelphia and Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens to jury a regional exhibit, we asked the organizers – Carol Shelkin, President of MSoP, and Ellen Owens, PMG’s Executive Director – what they wanted the show to accomplish. The title of the exhibit, Shattering Expectations: Mosaic 2014 is a direct reflection of their goal to shine a light on makers who use the medium to create art that is timely, relevant and engaging and, in doing so, break through some old assumptions about mosaic.
Shattering Expectations: Mosaic 2014 would place fine art mosaics within the belly of Isaiah Zagar’s massive visionary mosaic environment, The Magic Gardens of South Philadelphia. Zagar has mosaicked the interior and exterior walls, ceilings, and floors of nearly half a block of real estate to create what is, at its core, a 40 year personal diary that began as a response to a nervous breakdown. We found it a no less an all-encompassing experience than the cathedral of San Vitale in Ravenna; it is every bit as overwhelming, inspiring, transporting and, in its own way, sacred.
For the exhibiting artists to “hold their own” in the gallery space within Zagar’s Gardens, they would have to have very strong voices of their own. And they do. We selected Invited Artists Karen Kettering Dimit, Samantha Holmes and Brooks Tower and Juried Artists Yakov Hanansen, Yulia Hanansen, Rachel Sager, Carol Talkov, and Carol Stirton-Broad because their concepts and visions are as strong as their mastery of mosaic techniques. This is a group of highly-accomplished artists, most of whom have multiple award-winning works in their portfolios.
Climate change, technology, feminism, self-discovery, science, history, popular culture, beauty and the nature of mosaic itself are all explored within Shattering Expectations. With multiple works from each artist and the extremely thoughtful staging by Owens the exhibit works beautifully.
During the opening attended by 400 people – the largest opening of any PMG exhibition to date – we were delighted to watch visitors become strongly engaged with the art on the walls. It was just plain noisy in there! People pointed, got nose-close and selfied next to favorite works. The tech-savvy scanned the QR codes provided on the info panels to listen to prerecorded interviews with the artists.
For the artists, all of whom were there, it was a rare and personally rewarding opportunity to interact one-on-one with viewers. Marvelous moments of serendipity ensued – “That’s Jupiter!” exclaimed a gentleman upon spying Yulia Hanansen’s Great Red Spot. A subsequent conversation with the artist revealed that the man was connected with the Physics Department at the University of Pennsylvania. Much to Hanansen’s delight, he extended an invitation for a private tour of the school’s Rittenhouse Observatory.
Glorious spring weather the opening weekend brought over 1,100 visitors to the Gardens, some of whom participated in a workshop held beneath work by Yakov Hanansen.
Equally important, on Saturday March 8, there was a private showing of the exhibit for a group of 47 art collectors from the James Renwick Alliance (JRA) of Washington DC. JRA supports the Smithsonian’s American Art Museum’s Renwick Gallery with education programs on American craft and also makes acquisitions for the museum’s collection. A presentation on the mosaic renaissance occuring in the US and a walkthrough of the exhibit with the artists was the beginning of what we hope will be an ongoing conversation about modern mosaic with this important art institution.
With those 400 people at the opening, another 1,100 the first weekend and 6 sales since Shattering Expectations: Mosaic 2014 opened on March 7th we would have to say that Philadelphia is definitely a mosaic kind of town. The exhibit runs through April 20th, so there is still time to experience some great modern mosaics within one of the world’s most extraordinary mosaic environments. What follows is a brief look at work from each of the 8 artists in the exhibit.
Karen Kettering Dimit, Invited Artist
We have long appreciated Dimit’s in-depth mosaic exploration of themes that have great meaning for her. She is marvelous at exploiting the natural attributes and cultural associations of her materials to create imagery that can be haunting, thought provoking and delightful.
In her Subway Goddesses series, Dimit juxtaposes ancient female archetypes with the “goddesses” of today to examine how cultural stereotypes have impacted her own sense of self esteem. In Miss Willendorf 2008, we see the “Venus of Willendorf “ c. 28,000 B.C.E. – 25,000 B.C.E. recast in designer jeans, Spandex t-shirt and lovelorn tattoos.
A second series is devoted to the silent sentinels of New York City – its iconic water towers. Using natural stone and minerals, Dimit paints an apocalyptic sky in NYC Watertower XII; another example of her masterly use of materials. A similar work exhibited, NYC Watertower IX, has recently been sold to a mother with an autistic child who “became strongly engaged” with the work. No higher praise . . .
Yakov Hanansen, Juried Artist
If there were ever an example of how a photograph does not do a mosaic justice, it would be any image taken of Yakov Hanansen’s stunning work Brain.
We loved this in a jpeg, but in person it was just a knock out. There were worlds within worlds composed of smalti, the rims of ceramic plates, and exquisitely hand-sculpted tesserae in this mosaic. Light is manipulated through relief, reflection, texture and shape. Shadows are everything. ”White is the compilation of all colors,” Hanansen told us. “The brain is a universe that we are still exploring.” We could easily have spent hours exploring this work which proved to be magnetic for everyone who came within three feet of it. Something about the intricacy and symmetry in Brain is enormously compelling. Hanansen is very much a mosaic philosopher and his work stands at the intersection of science, cosmology and art.
Hanansen was classically trained as a mosaic muralist in Russia but now maintains a studio and school with his wife, Angele, in New York City. While his commission work for architectural installations is often very vivid, since the 1980s his personal work has all been in white. Hanansen is also the father of stained glass mosaic artist Yulia Hanansen, whose work is noteworthy for her marvelous, painterly use of color. An article by Philadelphia writer Paul Anater about this father daughter mosaic duo appeared in the 2010 edition of Mosaic Art NOW.
Yulia Hanansen, Juried Artist
Even as she is the daughter of a mosaicist trained in the classical European tradition, Yulia Hanansen is a thoroughly American mosaic artist blazing artistic trails in a material generally eschewed by the Europeans – stained glass. Her “layered mosaic” technique is an innovation she created to add the mosaic element of “relief” to a material that traditionalists find too flat. When she points this technique and her artistic training on the astronomical and ecological themes that are her inspiration, the result, as we noted above with Great Red Spot, draws the viewer in instantly.
It can take Hanansen as long as three years to accumulate the materials for a mosaic she has planned. This patience and care is often rewarded; Great Red Spot was selected as Best in Show in the Society of Mosaic Artist’s Mosaic Arts International 2011.
Displaced Hurricane is part of a series Hanansen is doing on global warming and potential disruptions to water supplies across the planet. In this work, we have a satellite’s view of a hurricane system devastating crop circles.
Samantha Holmes, Invited Artist
Samantha Holmes academic credentials provide clues to what drives her as artist working in mosaic; she holds a BA from Harvard and was recently awarded an MFA in Experimental Mosaic from the Academia di Belli Arti in Ravenna. She is passionate about bringing intelligence and relevancy to modern mosaic and has put that passion into action with great success; the American artist has already represented Italy in an exhibit in Paris and won several prestigious European mosaic prizes including the Innovation Award for the Young Artists & Mosaic Competition in Ravenna. Holmes’ work combines the most essential elements of the mosaic language – foundational attributes such as individual tesserae, andamento, interstice, permanence, etc. – with the exploration of the ambiguities of modern life such as the true meaning of “home”, thwarted communications and the nature of faith.
In Aperiodic Asymmetry, the site-specific work she created for Shattering Expectations, Holmes riffs off the traditional Islamic tile patterns designed to express Divine order in houses of worship. “Aperiodic Asymmetry deals with the disparity between this notion of Divine order and the chaos of the human experience, the perfection of the underlying geometry and the inaccuracy of the individual hand” explains Holmes. Indeed, if you look closely at this mosaic, you will see how one small bit of imperfection, if allowed to grow, quickly breaks down any opportunity for unity. Aperiodioc Asymmetry looked absolutely marvelous in its Garden setting.
Rachel Sager, Juried Artist
Pennsylvania-based artist Rachel Sager is well-known for digging into the earth to source materials for her mosaics. In the four works shown in Shattering Expectations, Sager looks at the earth – and the world as she knows it – through the lens of cartography to explore personal and societal conundrums.
In Here Be Dragons, Sager compares the unknown lands depicted as danger zones filled with beastly perils by 17th century cartographers with the newly-minted cyber-lands of Facebook and Twitter. While we all flock to these new lands with their promises of connectivity and opportunity are we making ourselves vulnerable to perils yet to be discovered?
A crowd favorite at the exhibition was Printlandia, a work that was the product of a feud between Sager and her long malfunctioning printer which culminated in her demolishing the machine and having a final revenge by repurposing its carcass into a mosaic map.
Beyond what we admire about Sager’s personal art, we also have a great appreciation for the incredible work she is doing to promote the mosaic medium; organizing exhibitions, teaching classes, speaking at geological conferences and, most recently, assisting the Touchstone Center for Craft in creating a mosaic curriculum for its 2014 season. Brava.
Carol Stirton-Broad, Juried Artist
Carol Stirton-Broad is a Philadelphia artist and teacher who has explored a number of mediums from photography to fiber. Mosaic has become a major focus for her and she has studied with some of the medium’s most rigorous instructors in Italy and the US. That training enabled her to transform the mundane into the sublime in two of the works selected for Shattering Expectations, From My Sister’s Garden #1 and From My Sister’s Garden #3.
Using classical mosaic techniques and materials, Stirton-Broad has given elegance and grace to cow and deer teeth that were unearthed in her sister’s rural garden. These two works are just plain beautiful. We can’t wait to see more from Stirton-Broad in the future.
Carol Talkov, Juried Artist
Carol Talkov was a successful costume and interior furnishings fabricator before turning her life to mosaic. One can easily see how the love of the materials she works with continues in this new medium. In fact, she believes that the glass, stone, minerals and gems she works with have stories within them that can be seen when when they are placed in the right relationship with one another.
Plume agate, petrified wood, agate, geode, chalcedony, mica, travertine, smalti and sea urchin spines are just a few of the materials Talkov sourced and carefully selected to use in these dynamic works. Visitors found these works enormously appealing, often getting extraordinarily close to investigate each individual tesserae. They are delicious.
Brooks Tower, Invited Artist
We have come to think of award-winning artist Brooks Tower as a mosaic poet. Instead of using a pen or keyboard, Tower employs the heavy duty industrial tools called wet saws and band saws in his modern interpretation of an ancient mosaic technique known as opus sectile. Sometimes, his mosaics can be a limerick, as in I Told Your Sister, where a split second of street life and tension is caught in stone and tile.
Other times, Tower’s work can be likened to psyche-disturbing doggerel as in his cartoon-like No Pants, a poem with a punch line that is any performer’s greatest nightmare.
Often, though, Tower’s work are heart-tugging sonnets to the beauty of every day life, as in Quaking Oats, inspired by a simple scene at his breakfast table.
We think that Tower is one of America’s finest mosaic artists and were very pleased to have his work in this exhibit. In addition to Shattering Expectations, he is also showing work in Tulsa Oklahoma’s beautiful new Hardesty Center in a show entitled Art in Mosaic.
Shattering Expectations: Mosaic 2014 continues through April 20, 2014 at Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens. Again, we want to thank Carol Shelkin and the Mosaic Society of Philadelphia for giving us the opportunity to play in the Gardens, Ellen Owens and the staff at the Gardens for mounting a beautiful exhibit, and Isaiah Zagar and his wife Julia for their phenomenal hospitality. Can we do this again, please?
- Karen Kettering Dimit website; see more of her work on MAN
- Yakov Hanansen website; see more of his work on MAN
- Yulia Hanansen website; see more of her work on MAN
- Samantha Holmes website; see more of her work on MAN
- Rachel Sager website: see more of her work on MAN
- Carol Stirton-Broad website
- Carol Talkov website
- Brooks Tower website; see more of his work on on MAN
- Photos of Isaiah Zagar’s Magic Gardens, murals throughout South Philadelphia and home in an extensive gallery by Gabe Kirchheimer here
- More photos of Shattering Expectations Opening by Anabella Wewer here
Photos are provided by the artists and the author unless otherwise noted.
When Dutch artist Jeroen Meijer shared his latest mosaic with us earlier this year, we were stunned by the depth and beauty of it.
This commemoration of his mother’s passing was so moving on so many levels, we spent a great deal of time studying it before contacting him with our many questions. He graciously answered all of them, sharing in his own words (below) the background behind a piece that shimmers with emotional realism. We are honored to share it with MAN readers here.
As you explore “Con Te Partirò” (Time To Say Goodbye), consider how mosaic and only mosaic could have enabled Meijer to achieve his goals for this work. The artist is a master storyteller, weaving the “warp” of carefully selected and custom-made tesserae with the “weft” of imagery, symbolism and composition to create a rich tapestry of spirituality. One could easily think of Meijer’s work as a modern-day take on the work of the 17th century Dutch Masters.
Here is the entire image again, which we hope you will click to enlarge.
Here is the Holy Trinity and a reference to his mother’s marital life in the triangular shape of the work itself. A sort of “reverse pietá” exists in the position of Meijer and his mother on her bed. In the foreground a crow, a multi-cultural symbol of insight, destiny, transformation and death carrying a wedding ring in its beak sits in front of portraits of the two deceased husbands.
A pair of scissors in Meijer’s hand signals his participation in making the decision to suspend his mother’s life support.
As you’ll discover in his description of Con Te Partirò, every single item has meaning. The result is a level of density and raw emotionalism that we seldom see in mosaic.
We first introduced Meijer (and his mother) to MAN readers in 2012 (to see more of his fantastic portraits, click here). Coincidentally, Meijer was recently contacted by a production company with a request to use “Mater Nostra” on the set of an American television series that will be debuting soon.
Meijer’s voice is powerful and authentic and his use of the mosaic medium unique and refreshing. We understand a solo exhibition is in the works and hope to see his work in upcoming international exhibitions.
Con Te Partirò By Jeroen Meijer
In August of 2010, my mother had a very severe stroke. My brothers, sisters, and I decided that, according to her wishes, she would be cut off from life-support systems and so let nature take its course. It took ten days for my mother’s body to surrender. During those ten days my brothers, sisters and I took shifts to be at her bedside.
We decorated the room with souvenirs from every family member and photographs of her two deceased husbands. We filled it with the soft tunes of her favorite CDs including Vangelis’ “1492: Conquest of Paradise” and Andrea Bocelli and his famous “Con te partirò“ (Time To Say Goodbye). I believe that when the spirit elevates from the body it actually can see the room where it has died. We tried to create a space that would feel familiar for my mother on her journey.
Most of the time my partner Buba and I took the night shift with my mother. Every morning at sunrise, looking through the window, we noticed two crows sitting on the rooftop of the hospital warming up in the first beams of sunlight. I liked to believe that the two birds were my deceased father and stepfather waiting for my mother to die – waiting to accompany her spirit towards the light.
For me the biggest sadness and dilemma was to deprive my mother – who was the very symbol of nourishment, safety, and unconditional love in my life – of bodily nourishment and so, to let her die. Equally difficult was to come to see that decision as the ultimate act of love on my part.
About the title: During this period we stayed at my mothers place. We left the radio tuned in to the only station she ever listened to – one that exclusively played German folks songs or “schlagers.” One morning, while Buba and I were making preparations to leave for the hospital, we were amazed to hear Andrea Bocelli’s “Con te partiro” coming from the radio. Half a minute later the phone rang. It was my sister calling from the hospital. Our mother had just died.
While I was working on this mosaic – and even now – I feel grateful that my mother gave my brothers, my sisters and me the opportunity to help and share her last moments.
Notes about the mosaic:
At some point I had to take a little nap and Buba, touched by the moment, took this photograph with her mobile phone.
The bedding I made from shards of my mother’s “fancy” dinner service. This type of colonial pottery called “Boerenbont” (multi-coloured farmer style) was very popular in the 60s and 70s. Because every item was hand painted (exclusively by women!) the dishes were also quite expensive. Therefore, they became a popular birthday-present for children – like me and my siblings – to give to their mothers until the service was complete.
When I thought about it after completing this mosaic, I realized that all my brothers and sisters had contributed tesserae to create this beautiful family patchwork blanket. The decoration of this pottery is nice and simple; I liked using it, because it reflects for me my mother’s uncomplicated personality.
I made hexagonal tesserae to create a honey comb room for my mother. The Queen Bee’s first occupation is to build perfect shelters with (sweet) nourishment for her offspring; I wished to return to my mother what she had given to me.
After my mother remarried, she and her new husband (in the blue coat in the left-hand photo) agreed that they would be buried together in the same grave.
As I was completing the mosaic, I saw at the Hieronymus* Bosch museum in Den Bosch a replica of “Ascent of the Blessed”, a painting that was part of the four panel polyptych “Visions of the Hereafter.”
I believe that the Flemish master was the first to paint a “tunnel of light” in connection with the afterlife. Studying this painting, I am certain he was familiar with stories of near-death experiences and “rebirthing.” (hence the “birth canal” of light).
*A coincidence is that my name, Jeroen, is derived from the Greek “Hieronymus.”
Jeroen Meijer, March 2014
In May of this year, the Washington DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities unveiled what one art lover has described as “the most beautiful mosaic in the city” in the Takoma Metro Rail Station.
Sam Gilliam (b. November 30, 1933) is internationally recognized as one of America’s foremost Color Field Painter and Lyrical Abstractionist artists. Gilliam, an African American, is associated with the Washington Color School and is broadly considered a Color field painter. His works have also been described as belonging to Abstract Expressionism and Lyrical Abstraction. He works on stretched, draped, and wrapped canvas, and adds sculptural 3D elements. He is recognized as the first artist to introduce the idea of a painted canvas hanging without stretcher bars c.1965, a major contribution to the Color Field School. – Wikipedia
In the video of dedication ceremonies below, Gilliam speaks about his inspiration for the work while citizens talk about the mural’s impact in bringing the Takoma Park and Washington DC communities closer together. What more could one ask of public art?
Recently, MAN spoke with Gilliam’s assistant of 30 years, Stephen Frietch and mosaic artisan Stephen Miotto, the man responsible for the making of From a Model to a Rainbow and many of the extraordinary mosaics found in the NY subways. Quite honestly, the enthusiasm for the project expressed by both of these men is difficult for us to convey here.
Luckily, we found this PBS video on the project where you can see/feel that enthusiasm. Listen for comments from Gilliam like “as if it’s actually flapping out of doors” and “these colors have the feeling that they are in water”– testaments to the artistry of the mosaicists who worked from his original computer generated image.
In our interview, Frietch said, “The mosaic is like a translation. They (the mosaicists) took unexpected liberties. We learned to trust them.” Miotto, based New York, provided us with the following photos of the mosaic’s creation in the Travisanutto Studio in Italy.
Gilliam’s original design was extraordinarily complex; colors shifted, melded and draped from one shape and plane to another. In the studio photo above, one can appreciate how the artisans achieved that complexity with astonishing accuracy using the mosaic components of color, texture and andamento. There isn’t a curved tesserae to be found and yet the completed work exudes fluidity.
Gilliam and Frietch spent time in the Travisanutto Studio with Miotto during the execution of the mosaic. Said Frietch, “There you are at the foot of the Dolomite mountains with your seventeen year old son watching the master (Giovanni Travisanutto), a 70 or 80 year old man make art the same way it has been made for thousands of years . . . it just doesn’t get any better.”
No, it doesn’t.
Says Miotto: You can’t copy a work of art (in mosaic). You have to recreate it in a way that is honest to what the artist wants.
And that would be the difference between simple fabrication and making art.
Our sincere thanks to Sam Gilliam, Stephen Frietch and Stephen Miotto for their assistance with this post. We could have gone on for days.
Enjoy – Nancie
Takoma Metro Rail Station, 327 Cedar Street NW, Washington DC
Recent works by Sam Gilliam Marsha Mateyka Gallery
Miotto Mosaics, Stephen Miotto: Tel. 845.628.8496 Fax. 845.628.1845
Website for Travisanutto Studio
More photos by Richard Holzager of the mural and its installation at TacomaDC
Previous MAN Posts on Stephen Miotto:
Stephen Miotto Interviewed in His Studio, here
Community Garden: An Award Winning Mosaic by Stephen Miotto here