Category Archives: Artist Watch Series

Artist Watch: Cynthia Monica

I’d like to introduce you to Cynthia Monica. Her mosaics are so vastly different to what I think I could ever do – a lot of texture using a combination of natural materials, found objects, glass… Love it! Here’s her story:

“I am 58 (hard to believe), and I was born and raised in the West Los Angeles/Santa Monica area of California.  I think my first inkling of being an artist was as a child.  I loved to color in coloring books, and my claim to fame was being the “best colorer” on my block, along with being the best handball player in school, I should add.   I always loved choosing beautiful colors, and of course the pages in my coloring book were very neat and I never went outside the lines.  I adored my art teacher, Mrs. Shubue, in elementary school and loved to make things in her class. My first job at 16 was working at Pacific Ocean Park (POP) on the old Ocean Park Pier, that subsequently burned down.  It was a great adventure.  I had a blast working at the paint pots, squirting plastic bottles of paint onto whirling paper. When folks were finished, I matted their “masterpieces” in cardboard frames.  On my breaks I rode the rickety old wooden roller coaster, and I saw Sonny & Cher perform live when they were still wearing fur vests.  I think there were all of about 30 or 40 people watching them on that typical sunny Southern California day, standing on an outdoor stage right in front of the roller coaster.  I am definitely a child of the 60’s, as I went to “Love-Ins” and wore flowers in my hair.  I saw Jim Morrison and the Doors at After Hours on the Sunset Strip; Jimmy Hendrix at the Forum, and many other famous musicians of the 60’s.  What a “trip”.  I became a bit rebellious, cutting school and experimenting with drugs a bit, after all, it was the 60’s.  I expressed myself by making collages on my bedroom door, painting the inside of my closet purple, and putting my mattress on the floor.  My family always thought of my creative endeavors as “weird”, a label that still sticks with me to this day.  In high school my major was art and I started out in college as an art major.  I loved every medium I was introduced to; ceramics, print making, graphic design, painting, drawing, etc.  I just couldn’t get enough.  At that time I wanted to be a graphic designer.  I always had a fascination with logos and lettering and design.  I had a graphic design class and next to me sat a very talented young man, who had amazing drawing skills, and one day while we were in class he produced the most incredible drawing I had ever seen.  I looked at his work, and thought “I could never be that good”, and that turned out to be a very pivotal moment in my life, because there and then, I gave up my dream of becoming a graphic designer.  I ended up as a Philosophy major, and graduated from UCLA with a BA.  A lot of good that did me, as I did not want to teach, or pursue a career in academia which is about it, as far as philosophy goes.  So I floundered around for many years, working different jobs, in advertising, interior design, real estate, and others, searching for something, but not really knowing what.  I was always taking ceramics, or drawing or painting, interior design, graphic design, computer design, or any art class I could get my hands on in the evenings.  As I got older I decided I needed a “proper career”.  I was always interested in the psyche and the human experience, so off I went to USC for graduate school and I became a psychotherapist.  I worked in that field for about 10 years, but it always seemed like something was missing.  During that time I met my husband, Corbett, and after living in California for all our lives, we moved to Portland, Oregon, practically on a whim.  We have now been here for 11 years, and for the last 4 years, we have lived out in the country, on the Sandy River.  We have a couple of acres, and feel blessed to live in the midst of such splendor and beauty.  With the support of Corbett, I left my career, and through his encouragement began pursuing my long lost dream, to be an artist.   I started with crockery and taught myself how to mosaic through trial and error.  I graduated to glass and became enthralled with vitreous, smalti, and now mixed media.  I am still trying to find my “voice” it seems, but it is the journey, I have learned to love.  I am fascinated by the process of each piece, as well as the outcome.  Sometimes I paint, or work in collage and other mediums, as I love them all.  I am happiest when I am creating, and feel a bit lost when I am not.  As of late, I am trying develop my online skills and presence, joining various social networking sites.  It is a big learning curve for me, but I’m getting more knowledgeable, slow and steady.  I spend hours on  flickr, as I love to see the mosaics created by others.  I have also started a blog, titled “Outside the Lines”, which serves as a reminder that I don’t have to stay inside the lines anymore, I can even scribble if I want.  I have met some amazing people online, and feel blessed to a part of the virtual group of mosaic artists on flickr and CMA, for they are some of the most kind and generous people around. For a time, I had a hard time thinking of myself as an artist, although I have studied many art mediums through the years, and have always had the inclination.  But, finally, I just became used to the idea.  Yes, I am an artist, and I’m not sure where I’m going from here, but I know I will be fulfilled as long as I continue to pursue my passion – art.”

I know I say it over and over, but really! People are soooooo interesting. Thanks Cynthia for sharing your amazing story. Now for the visual feast:


Meandering


Urban Relics


Emerge #4 – detail


Emerge # 2


Taj Mahal Birdhouse

Finally, meet the Artiste – 🙂


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Filed under Abstract, Art, Artist Watch Series, Artists, Cynthia Monica, Emerging, Female, Flickr, Inspiration, Mosaic, Mosaic Materials, Recycled, Uncategorized, Wall Hanging

Artist Watch: Ilona Fried

I’ve always been quite fascinated with Ilona and her work and I was excited that she agreed to be a part of this series. I’m deviating from the norm this time around – here’s her story, in her own words…

Although I used to do a lot of drawing as a child, I did not consider myself an artist for most of my adult life; periodically I would dabble in some art form or another, usually ceramics and photography, while working in various professions…I won’t bore you with the list!  I was drawn to art but was also a bit apprehensive about pursuing it – in fact, about 10 years ago one of my photography instructors pulled me aside and said, “I think you really want to be an artist.”  I felt as if he had revealed some deep secret and
although I did not pursue photography as an art form his words stayed with me.

Fast forward to 2001 when I was working as a management consultant and traveling a lot. When 9/11 happened I really woke up to the fact that life is short and that I no longer wanted to be doing a stressful job that I did not enjoy. To quell my anxiety about the future I started designing jewelry and months later worked up the nerve to resign and start a jewelry design business.  I loved combining color, shape and texture in my jewelry and finding new materials to use, but after awhile I felt limited by the jewelry format as a means of self-expression.  I wanted to work with color, shape and pattern on a larger scale and to create fine art. Although I had taken a few painting classes over the years, the medium did not grab me.  Mosaics seemed like the natural next step in my creative path, allowing me to continue working with my hands and with a wide variety of tesserae – beads, ceramic, glass, stone and more.

I took my first mosaic class in 2006 in a community education program – the instructor showed us how to cut and what adhesive to use, and that was about it.  Not completely satisfied, I decided to study with the experts and in the spring of 2007 went to the Mosaic School in Ravenna, Italy.  There I was very surprised to discover that even I could cut teeny tiny pieces with a hammer and hardie!  When I returned to the US I saw a call for an all-mosaic exhibit in the Boston area, where I was living at the time.   Back then I had only made a handful of mosaics and two were accepted.  I was thrilled! One of them sold after the show ended.  That helped me take my mosaic making a bit more seriously. And having one of my pieces published in Brit Hammer’s “Mosaic: Finding Your Own Voice” inspired me to keep going, as have all the many wonderful mosaic artists I’ve met at SAMA conferences and online. I really enjoy using an ancient medium to express contemporary themes and being part of an international community of artists; I’ve traveled to two dozen countries and lived overseas a few times – in Hungary, Ecuador, and Mexico – and so I welcome any mosaic-related opportunity to get on an airplane.

About a year ago I thought about relocating to Colorado where I could pursue another passion: hiking.  The “Art Gods” were on my side – I found a terrific studio in an artist building during one of my exploratory trips to Denver.  So I packed up and moved here.  Being outdoors in stunning scenery helps me recharge and gives me ideas for mosaics. Some of my abstract pieces are inspired by mountains and how I feel when I’m at high altitude – completely at peace with myself and deeply connected to the world. Sometimes I am able to experience that same feeling when I am deeply engrossed in making a mosaic. Life doesn’t get much better than that!

Family Outing

Tamago

New Directions

Shades of Memory

Salmon Maki

My Analogous Self

Just love this portrait, everything about it is so great!

Ilona’s website is a treat: clean, organised and well presented, do check it out. It’s everything I love in a website, especially the art! 🙂 If you’re on Facebook, become a fan of her work!

Finally meet Ilona –

Eccles

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Filed under Abstract, Art, Artist Watch Series, Artists, Emerging, Female, Flickr, Ilona Fried, Inspiration, Mosaic, Portraiture, Uncategorized, Wall Hanging

Artist Watch: Irit Levy

I only recently found out about Irit Levy‘s art. I immediately felt a sense of shame as to how I could have possibly allowed her to fly under my radar! The first mosaic I saw of hers was the tree she made for Christine Brallier, a tree trade 🙂 I’ve been hooked ever since.

For as long as she can remember, Irit always painted and drew. As a young child, she surrounded herself with all sorts of paper and different types of paints and crayons, even creating art from glass as an older child. “With no internet or TV this was my easy escape from boredom”. Irit discovered her local glazier who would give her some coloured glass offcuts which she then cut and glued, “Of course it didn’t hold long. Who knew then about different types of glues…”.

As a young adult, Levy studied painting at the art academy in Israel. She later went on to pursue Economics and worked in this field for a number of years before returning to a different art academy, again in Israel. It was here she met Doron Bar-Adon, who she claims has the most influence on her art today. It wasn’t until leaving Israel that she discovered other mediums, taking pottery very seriously. “Though I had done pottery before, it was actually the first time I dived into “brushless” art. I think that without knowing it yet then, it was at this moment that I was opened to different types of art”.

It wasn’t until mid 2006 on a visit to New York City that Irit discovered mosaic as an art form. “I stumbled, by chance, onto the Sicis showroom. The beauty of this place really hits you. After I started breathing again I knew I was going to do THAT. It took me a few more months and in April 2007 I did my first mosaic.”

“The process of making a mosaic is totally the opposite of painting, of the way I was painting. I was painting big and dirty, no plans in advance, no early sketches and very quickly. With mosaic I am going more and more into the direction of no planning. If I want to make a rhythm in mosaic I need a little planning as I can’t have that rapid brush stroke as I did while painting. I am still dirty and messy but the process is slow and I feel so good with it. I feel that I am growing into the work, that it becomes more and more a part of me.”

Irit’s claims of being impatient and impulsive means she also works on several pieces simultaneously: “… otherwise I couldn’t survive the pace of the mosaic art process.”

Irit has experienced the loss of her art throughout her life, from destroying it herself to burglary: “I am very connected to all my art. If I don’t like something, I destroy it. I don’t keep things I don’t like and I won’t have others have them… Sadly, over the years, I lost a lot of art I didn’t intend to lose. My parents destroyed all the art I did until I left home at the age of 18. I could never figure out why. The second time I lost my whole work was when I was in my mid 20’s when burglars stole all my art in my apartment.”

Irit will be exhibiting 2 of her paintings in the prestigious Biennale in Italy soon. Here is an excerpt of what one of the curators wrote about her work, which Irit feels also applies to her mosaics:

Irit Levy is a highly thought provoking artist, whose art reflects a strong existential contemplation of the world and of ordinary objects. (…. )   “Over the years my art changes as I experiment with new materials and new approaches.  What remains most similar in my art is the backgrounds. My works often show a certain emptiness. The backgrounds are large and usually have a character of their own and at times the content of the paintings seem to be floating. For me, the backgrounds are no less important than the content, in the same way that unspoken words are no less important than spoken ones.”

Cool huh?!Check out her Flickr photostream for more visual stimulation and head over to her awesome blog where she documents her work.

The Kiss

Chez Christine

Smiling Nude

Big Steps

Le Mistral

Quiet - self portrait

Love her work… just love it!

Finally, meet Irit:

Irit Levy

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Filed under Art, Artist Watch Series, Events, Exhibitions, Flickr, Inspiration, Irit Levy, Mosaic, Portraiture, Uncategorized, Wall Hanging

Artist Watch: Rebecca Collins

I was looking through one of the mosaic forums the other week and came across one of Rebecca Collins‘ octopus pieces. Thinking I had seen it somewhere before (yup, flickr!!) it still struck me and I couldn’t stop looking at her work. There’s something so free about her mosaics and I can’t quite put my finger on it. Anyway, of course typical immediate reaction was that I needed to know a little bit more about her, the artist 😉 So here goes…

Already coming from a creative background (she’s a full time digital pet portrait artist – and I have to say I love what she does there too!! Check out her website), Rebecca discovered mosaics in 2007 when she took a class with a girlfriend on a whim. She’s been hooked ever since. Although she has mentioned before that her works are not intricate or exacting, I would beg to differ. She has her own unique style and it is free, but still very exact. There’s messy and then there’s messy! Of which her work is neither, in my humble opinion. “When I took my first mosaic class I was not sure if I would have the patience or the ability to sit still and work on a piece slowly. It turns out that my impatient nature does show through in my work as I tend to work fast creating loosely cut works with tons of tiny tessera. I do not get horribly bogged down in a desire to create elaborate intricate or exacting patterns. I love it when I see that type of work, but I could never go there.”

I love how she layers her work, how there’s such a bohemian feel to it (and I mean that as a compliment!, not wanting to categorise inappropriately here). She does what my anal self would love to be able to do but finds very difficult to just let go. This statement pretty much sums up what I love about her work: “My interest is in combining layers of collage images and text underneath glass. I use my computer skills to create digital paintings that get collaged with text and other elements for a rich look. I also will create watercolors from scratch and then scan those into the computer and work on them in Photoshop and then print them out to incorporate into my mosaic designs. I enjoy the back and forth of using traditional tools and media along with the computer and all that it offers.”

Her mosaics are, for her, an escape. Dare I say, a hobby. It is her part time passion and she is reluctant to really market her work as she doesn’t want to turn it into a “job” of any sort. “I do love my full time business of creating pretty dog and cat portraits and yet mosaics are my escape from that create-on-demand world. I think that is one reason I often choose squid and bugs as subject matter. I know that nobody is going to ask me to create a mosaic for them of their pet cockroach.” 🙂

However, due in large part to the generous support of her mentor and teacher, Katrina Doran, this year has marked the beginning of taking her mosaics more seriously. Doran curated a show called Exquisite Creatures: the Mermaid and Octopus show. “Seeing my work under gallery lights was just a great feeling. I hope to show more in the future and to start exploring new subjects. I have some outer space theme ideas on the back burner that I want to jump on soon. Like most artists I always tend to have more ideas than time.”

I am absolutely enamoured with her work!!! Colour, texture, layers, vibrance… it has it all!!

More info about Rebecca and her work  can be found via her blog and Etsy shop.

Tommy and the Octopus

King Squid

Queen Octopus

Fig. 3 Bug

Blast Off
One of my faves!!!

And finally Rebecca, with Ajax…

rebeccacollins_with_ajax

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Filed under Art, Artist Watch Series, Artists, Dogs, Emerging, Etsy, Female, Flickr, Inspiration, Mosaic, Ornamental, Pets, Portraiture, Rebecca Collins, Uncategorized, Wall Hanging

Artist Watch: Linda Martin

Next in line, good pal Linda Martin who I had the pleasure of meeting in Sue Gianotti’s class at SAMA. It was a huge (but silent) wave and YAAAAAY!!!!! 😉 We hit it off immediately – but I think she has a way with people and hits it off with everyone she meets. Really a very special person – warm and generous.

Linda has always been creative. Always. In high school she carried around a sketch book with her everywhere she went. Whilst living in Hawaii, she sat on the beach crocheting bathing suit tops she sold for “gas money”. She came across mosaics while perusing a craft store with her then 8 year old son: “He always got inspired on a trip to the craft store with mom so I picked up a little mosaic garden plaque for him to do. We started to do it together but I think he lost interest, or I took over, or maybe he lost interest because I took over, in any case I caught a mosaic fever.” 🙂

After that venture, Linda borrowed books from the library and studied them, researched the internet and spent hours studying other artists’ work. “I began to play around with breaking glass, dishes, and tile, ordering supplies and tools from the web, experimenting with everything I could get my hands on.” One of her first projects was covering a lava lamp with broken dishes which she called Shab-a-delic. “At the time I was quite pleased with myself, but looking at it now…. Ahhhhhhh!” LOL!!! Don’t we all have a million of them somewhere?!

Linda also made lots of picture frames, and a license plate cover for her car, all of which she says fell apart as she was using the wrong materials. “These early projects took me forever to complete and were not very good, but I was having fun and learning.” I always say there’s no better way of learning than by doing… Her “coming-out” was with a mannequin titled “Courting Laura” which Linda entered into a fundraiser for breast cancer.

After moving back to her native California, she was conveniently located an hour or so from the Institute of Mosaic Art, in Oakland. “I started taking classes there… lots of classes. That’s how it all began…”

Her future direction is in therapeutic mosaics. Linda has been an Occupational Therapist for a good portion of her life and has done a few projects combining both – mosaics with her patients: “I have the license as an occupational therapist, the skills as a mosaic artist, and the time and resources to go further”. Producing community murals is big on her list of to-dos. I love that. I’m such a fan of art-with-meaning, as opposed to art-for-the-sake-of-art. Not that I don’t appreciate that either…

Linda says, “I want to focus on mural projects with parents and their children, bonding, communication skills, and improvement of quality of life. Now, when I say parent/child relationship, parents of younger children comes to mind. But I want to work with the older population, the elderly parents and their adult children. That’s the bond I want to facilitate with the murals.”

Linda reminisces, “I remember once when working in a skilled nursing facility, aka nursing home, I was doing water colour paintings with the patients. This one female patients’ daughter loved her mother’s picture so much she had it framed and it looked stunning! Two months later the mother died. Her daughter came up to me and thanked me for the work I did and especially for the painting, a final memento of her beloved mother. It’s bonds like this I want to continue.”

Linda’s mosaics can be seen this summer in the juried show “Art on the Wharf”, July 19th at the Santa Cruz Pier. A show consisting of only 30 artists.

Fido

Reef(er) Madness

Coexist

Courting Laura

Backsplash

Flowers

And finally, the artiste herself, sitting atop her community arts project she led also as an occupational therapist.

Linda Martin with community arts project she led

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Filed under Architectural Installations, Art, Artist Watch Series, Artists, Community Projects, Emerging, Female, Flickr, Garden Mosaics, Hospital, Inspiration, Linda Martin, Mosaic, Public Art, Uncategorized

Artist Watch: Laura Harris

Laura Harris of Melonhead Gallery, was first “introduced” to me by Carol Shelkin. An email from Carol, read, click and… POW! I was literally blown away. That hasn’t happened to me, to that extent,  in a long time. Her work is magnificent. To be perfectly honest I grapple for the words that describe how I feel when I view her work, and that is all in a photo on my trusty ol’ computer, so I can’t imagine what it would be like in person.  She is in my mind a Mythmaker, to borrow a term from the righteous James Hubbell.

Born in Wisconsin she is the daughter of late Midwest sculptor/painter, Walter Lenz.  Laura has been working in mixed media, including fiber art, acrylic art and mosaic art for over 25 years.  More recently, Laura has concentrated on mosaic portrait art.  Using a preferred direct method of application, her choice in tesserae include venetian and dichroic glass, 24 Kt. Italian gold smalti, porcelain, ceramic tile, mirror, stone and salvaged or recycled materials.

Laura’s career was not always limited to the field of art.  She worked as a speech-language pathologist for over 15 years and was recognized in 1998 as one of the top 5 teachers in Wisconsin for her efforts in the field of Assistive Technology and voted New Berlin Public School Teacher of the Year in 2001.

Laura got into mosaics in 1985 after having to quit teaching due to her worsening Multiple Sclerosis. She has risen above her physical limitations, as her artwork shows, but also in her attitude towards her MS: “I can’t feel all of my cuts so I guess there is a silver lining in everything, you just have to look for it.”

Her father has played a vital role in her life as she states: “I have been involved in art my whole life. My dad was an artist and a strong influence. I remember even as a young kid that my dad banned coloring books, he felt they were too restrictive and didn’t challenge the imagination. He also died from complications of MS in 2006.”

Ballerina

Ballerina

Ashima

Evolution of Wish

Creeping Thyme

Lady with Roses

“Today, the world can appear fragmented and its people disconnected,  mosaics allow me to fuse the pieces  together to create something cohesive and beautiful , what I wish the world could be.”  –Laura Harris

LHarris

The lovely Laura in the Cave of the Mounds on a family holiday, before exhibiting in Madison’s Art on the Square.

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Filed under Art, Artist Watch Series, Artists, Female, Flickr, Inspiration, Laura Harris, Mosaic, Ornamental, Portraiture, Uncategorized, Wall Hanging

Artist Watch: Baroness Von Reichardt

Onwards to Chiswick, London where Baroness Von Reichardt (aka Carrie and used ironically of course) has been mosaicing her home one piece at a time. Her mosaics caught my eye a while back now, not long after I first joined flickr. What really stopped me was the fact that she combines her political persuasions in her art, and pulls it off with such aplomb! I really don’t think it’s an easy thing to do.

Carrie graduated from Leeds University with a fine arts degree. She specialised in creating art projects for schools and councils – not necessarily a breeding ground for free interpretation of design. Her creative freedom came about when she started working on her own home and thus The Treatment Rooms was born. With an interest in Outsider and Visionary art as well as graffiti and with partner “Mr Spunky” by her side, Carrie set about creating her own fantasy world. “I liked the idea that on this quaint little street in Chiswick something as incongruous as a house completely covered in mosaic art might exist.”

What we see come through are her strong political persuasions as well as an immense amount of passionate empathy. I, for one, love the message in her art. Her beliefs lie strongly in the cathartic value of art more than the monetary value of art. {Hear Hear!}

Before having found mosaics, Carrie suffered from extreme clinical depression, to the point of near hospitalisation. Mosaics brought her back from that brink and it was at around the same time that she had read something in the Big Issue asking for people to write death row inmates as a humanitarian gesture. She did and what resulted, other than an enormous amount of respect and perspective in Life, was life changing. “… no matter how bad you may feel at least you’re not incarcerated and awaiting execution.”

“One of the inmates I wrote was Luis Ramirez. After Luis’ execution, I started mosaicing for eight hours a day. The wall around the back garden is in memory of him, whom I believe was innocent and unjustly convicted for murder. Today, I have five pen pals on Death Row.”

“My correspondence with Luis was my introduction to the horrors of the American criminal justice system. Most people have no idea how awful Death Row really is. They don’t realize how arbitrary so call “justice” is. Luis once told me that “captial punishment means, those with no capital get punished.” I see the death penalty in America as a continued form of lynching, just now they kill the poor along with the blacks.”

Her obsessive compulsive tendencies have also lead her to have one of the most extensive collections of vintage ceramic decals. Carrie spent many years trying to figure out the techinque of transferring her own designs onto ceramic. What culminated was a technique of layering images, using a combination of homemade, vintage and digital ceramic decals (transfers) that she sources from across the globe and is slowly tiling the entire inside of her house with.

The Baroness’ art has been featured in a diverse selection of publications, including Raw Vision, The Guardian, The Evening Standard, Nude, Tile and Stone, Grout, Westside, The Londonist, Abort, Mozake, That’s Life and Soho House magazine.

Passionate, articulate and incredibly talented… we need more artists like her. I’m looking forward to a visit to the UK in the next year or two and the Treatment Rooms are high on my landmarks to visit.

More pics on the Carrie’s flickr site as well as Treatment Rooms’ flickr site.

Fight for you right to be arty

Front Entrance of Treatment Rooms

Luis Ramirez Mural Detail

Mayan God Dancing

Hula Hula Girl

Flying Eyeballs

Wave

Carrie Reichardt

Jackie Sumell, Robert King and The Baroness after the back wall was unveiled on Summer Soltice, June 21st 2008.
Robert King has spent 29 years in solitary confinment, before being exonerated in 2001. He is the only freed member of the Angola3.

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Filed under Architectural Installations, Art, Artist Watch Series, Artists, Building, Carrie Reichardt, Europe, Female, Flickr, Graffiti, Inspiration, Leeds, London, Mosaic, Murals, Politics, Portraiture, Protest, Public Art, Round the World, Tile Art, Travel, Uncategorized, United Kingdom, Urban