Cover Photo: Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens
Mosaic Art: Zagar Turning Waste Into Wonder
“One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” Does this saying sound familiar? In today’s article, it will take on a new significance when we observe the magic gardens of Philly! The artist behind Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens sees wonders in the things we throw away every day. Instead of heading to the art supply store, Isaiah Zagar has been transforming the city’s waste into wonder for more than three decades.
What makes his creations more phenomenal is that he doesn’t work solely with throwaway materials. Many of his mosaic artworks include tiny souvenirs from his travels in China, India, and Latin America. His main mediums are visual symbols, inspirational stories mementos from across the globe and of course the city’s junk and cultural emblems.
His work is spotted by several occasion and mirrors his creative thoughts that are building and falling apart, having a logic but close to chaos, rejecting to stay still, and giving one a sense of heaven and hell simultaneously!
Today, Zagar’s mosaic murals cover more than 50,000 square feet of Philly’s downtown. His vibrant mosaics are adorning many apartment buildings, public gardens, and even shops. However, he never intended to become the city’s most recognized living artist. In a 2009 interview with the New York Times, Zagar was complaining about museums that weren’t willing to exhibit his work. For that reason, he decided to showcase his mosaic artworks in public places. His projects are still livening up the walls of two of his earliest canvases on South Street, Philadelphia’s most famous streets.
Philly’s Mosaic Gardens:
In late 1994, Zagar initiated a large-scale artwork in one of South Street’s empty lots. He built walls, dug tunnels through nearly 400 feet and created hollow-like spaces through the 3.000 square feet lot, then began to fill up every surface with mosaic art. These mosaics, perhaps his most personal to date, included a momentous sum of poetry, capricious allusions to his life, and of course his signature patchwork of recycled bicycle wheels, discarded gadgets, and multicolored glass.
Today, the Magic Mosaic Gardens of Philadelphia serve as Zagar’s headquarters, hosting terrific folk concerts and events. Zagar also leads visionary art and creativity workshops, and a steady stream of tourists and locals come to revel in this unique artistic playground.
Although the artist didn’t succeed in the gallery scene, Zagar’s mosaics are now part of permanent collections at the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington DC. He has also installed mosaics in the Gulf Shores State Park in Alabama and the village of Rojas de Cuauhtémoc in Oaxaca, Mexico.
Nevertheless, a walk down South Street and through the otherworldly passageways of Philly’s Magic Gardens, and elusive murals still tenders the most enlightening glance at the heart and mind of the city’s great creative philosophy.
Last but not least, Zagar is another creative mosaicist that pushed the limits with a scrupulous intelligence and dreamy influence! Next Step? I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that UNESCO declared his Magic Gardens a World Heritage Site, for the aesthetics and creative value as well as their status as a mosaic landmark.
Photos Credits: Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens
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