Sandoval Signpost
An independent monthly newspaper serving the community since 1988
  Featured Artist
 

c. Laura Robbins

ABQ BioPark Dragonfly Sanctuary (detail), by Laura Robbins

c. Cirrelda Snider-Bryan

Honoring Catchment, by Cirrelda Snider-Bryan

c. Patricia Halloran

Sculptural mosaic, by Patricia Halloran

c. Barb Belknap

Abstract Coffee Bar (detail), by Barb Belknap

Signpost featured artists

Mosaic New Mexico: a new collaborative

—Oli Robbins

Placitas mosaic artist Laura Robbins pointed out that “mosaic” shares its root with “muse.” The former word is accepted to be a coming together of individual pieces of varying materials, while the latter refers to an inspirational source that spawns creativity. But, indeed, some cursory online sleuthing reveals that, etymologically, “mosaic” derives from the Greek mouseion—a place devoted to the muses, an artistic and philosophical school.

The creative and communal basis of the word is fitting for a team of New Mexico mosaic artists who recently banded together in hopes of establishing a setting for mosaic artists to exchange, grow, and inspire. Mosaic New Mexico aspires to “provide a forum that will allow members to develop as artists through communication and sharing of ideas and techniques, exhibits and gallery shows, educational opportunities and outreach, community projects, and alternative venues for presentation of members’ work to the public at large.” It evolved out of conversations between Robbins, Lydia Piper, Cirrelda Snider-Bryan, and Patricia Halloran, who conceived of a guild of sorts, which would foster collaborative projects, dialogue about, and education on, the medium, and ultimately, elevate public appreciation of mosaic art by promoting an understanding of it. Robbins and Piper soon reached out to fellow mosaic artists who shared their goals. Current members include:

Laura Robbins (president), Lydia Piper, Erin Magennis (vice president), Perri Yellin (board member), Marina Arbetman Rabinowitz (treasurer), Barb Belknap (secretary), Patricia Halloran, Cirrelda Snider-Bryan (NMMNHS Kiwanis Learning Garden Coordinator), Scottie Sheehan, Jill Gatwood, Erica Hoverter, Holly Kuehn, Kayleen Dowell, Cate Clark, Bosha Gordon, Daisy Kates, Lynx Lightning, Frank Simms, Sharon Wilson, Joel Davis, and Kyle Ray.

In the summer of 2014, Mosaic New Mexico enjoyed its first group show—appropriately themed “Pieces of the Whole”—at the Albuquerque Open Space. Robbins has arranged for an upcoming show, to be hosted by Matrix Fine Art Gallery and its director Regina Held in June 2016, for which the artists will create works inspired by water. The group foresees other meaningful shows and projects, some community-based and in conjunction with causes and places the group desires to promote or protect—much like the cooperative “Protect Our Wildlife Corridor” mosaics that adorn the facade of the Placitas recycling center. Says Robbins of the Wildlife mosaic project, which she co-led with Snider-Bryan and for which community members participated throughout: “It was a four year commitment, but a wonderful experience, as I believe the art brings joy to the community and shows art as activism. I was able to use art towards a cause and need I value. I also believe that practicing non-hierarchal collaboration is a good thing.”

For some group members, Mosaic New Mexico encourages the prioritizing of their own work and artistic development. Says Snider-Bryan, “Having the camaraderie of dedicated artists in my daily life deeply influences my expectations for more studio time.” Belknap similarly acknowledges the group’s common values and pursuits: “Having the camaraderie of artists working with the same materials is truly comforting. Knowing others are putting out their blood, sweat, and tears for the sake of beauty gives me joy. Art is important for humanity.”

Mosaic art is a somewhat under-acknowledged medium; it’s likely that more people can conjure up images of and ideas about painting, sculpture, and photography than they can mosaics. But mosaics are a very old art form, dating back at least four thousand years. The early roads made up of pebbles pressed and artistically arranged in the ground may be considered nascent mosaic art. In later antiquity, organically-formed pebbles gave way to “tesserae,” stones cut specifically (usually in the form of a cube) for use in mosaic compositions. The Byzantine era opened up more opportunities for the development of the art, bringing mosaics away from their previous placement on floors and onto the walls and ceilings of churches. Byzantine tesserae mosaics are exceptional, noted for their transformative light, achieved by means of reflective glass pieces that were often coupled with gold leaf. Islamic mosques also offer unsurpassed beauty with their geometrically and mathematically-conceived mosaics.

Says Robbins, “Traditionally, glass, stone, ceramic and tile were used, paying attention to shape and value to create pictorial pieces and designs.” While sometimes these materials were combined, historically, European artists tended to employ just one type of material per composition. Today, mosaics are comprised of any number of materials, and many mosaicists consider themselves mixed-media artists. The current integration of different materials highlights the basic symbiotic nature of the mosaic process—a process predicated on the merging of countless parts.

Mosaic New Mexico artists seem to define mosaics inclusively, and most believe that the materials can and should be varied. Says Halloran, “I think mosaic can be any broad variety of materials assembled as pieces to create a whole.” Belknap echoes this, “Mosaic is a collection of physical elements that make a statement. The size or shape of these elements doesn’t define mosaic to me.” Says Robbins, “Mosaics are whole pieces made up of little parts that are adhered to a substrate. Often it is a walk on the wild side. Sometimes elegant. Sometimes folksy.”

Mosaic New Mexico lists several objectives in its mission statement: “Develop the knowledge and growth of members by sharing information about mosaic techniques and methods, educational opportunities, supply sources, resources, and skills; Develop educational opportunities for Mosaic New Mexico Members, as well as the general public; Develop and organize regular shows for members; Develop and organize community projects; Utilize current information technology to promote Mosaic New Mexico, member artists and group activities.” The Mosaic New Mexico website provides a wealth of information, including examples of members’ work and short biographies, upcoming shows, educational events and resources, and a social forum. The website mosaicnewmexico.com was built by Piper, while Halloran monitors the group’s Facebook page. Mosaic New Mexico is in the process of applying to become a not-for-profit organization—an endeavor spearheaded by Rabinowitz.

Mosaic artists of any level of experience are welcome to join the group by following instructions on the website, or contacting by Robbins at laura@laurarobbinsmosaics.com.

 
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