The use of mosaic for portraits is not new – we’ve featured some wonderful – and ancient! – examples of the art form here in our blog. This week, we’re spotlighting some recent works, created by contemporary artists. Using unconventional items, locations, and shapes, these pieces honor their subjects in new ways.
Austin Trailblazers Honored with Mosaic Portraits
In Austin, Texas, mosaic portraits honoring a host of trailblazing women of color were just permanently installed outside the Central Library. Sponsored by Latinitas, a STEM nonprofit that encourages all girls to innovate through media and technology, it highlights 6 important courageous women leaders.
Latinitas has a vision to create courageous leaders from their young women, too. Their choices for the portraits include Dr. Martha Cotera, (founding member of Chicana Caucus), Dr. Teresa Lozano Long (educator, philanthropist), Dr. Bertha Sadler Means (educator, social justice advocate), Sylvia Orozco (founder Mexic-Arte Museum), and Peggy Vasquez (producer, journalist, social justice advocate).
Created by six Austin women artists of color, these bright portraits are now on display, as of October, 2021. They’re definitely worth a trip to the Central Library – where you can also see a large installation by mosaic artist Ana ‘Technomama’ Sisnett. Each piece is influenced by photorealism, but the mixes of glass mosaic, tile mosaic, and other materials adds a distinctly personal touch.
Matt Small – Seeing the Overlooked
In the UK, artist Matt Small has expanded the idea of what makes mosaic art with his use of repurposed scrap metal. His choices of materials – sourced from everything from car hoods to old appliances – make for richly textured portraits.
Small prefers to use people from his area of London for subjects. “I’ve always felt the need to document the people that live in my area, the individuals that are rarely featured in portraiture, the unseen, undervalued in society,” says the artist.
Although primarily a painter, Small felt that the use of discarded materials that he could pick up on walks around his neighborhood brought a deeper layer of meaning to his works.
The carefully composed images can take months to create. Small kicks off each piece with a sketch on plywood, and then combing his inventory of metal to find just the right match for each tonal variation in the mosaic.
Completed pieces may look, from a distance, like conventional glass mosaic wall art. The closer one gets to the art, the more hints of the source materials creep into view.
Small explains on his personal site how the urban debris he paints on becomes symbolic of the feeling of being without value: “I thought it’d be interesting to connect the two – that oven door, that shelving unit, that piece of trash to someone – I don’t see it like that, I see that it can be something beautiful and worthwhile. That’s how I see our young people too. Let’s look at their potential, at the hope that’s in all of them.
The Beauty of Everyday Heroes in NYC
The NYC subway system is a hotbed for art installations – some permanent, some temporary guerilla art pieces, and always stellar mosaic art. Just when you think you’ve seen it all, a new artist pops up with something wonderful. Every subway stop can be a mini-gallery!
Katherine Bradford – usually known for her paintings – has ventured into mosaic wall art with her 5 new pieces at the L train First Avenue station in Manhattan. Her subjects: Everyday heroes. They shimmer and float near and above travelers – just plain folks, but ready to fly in to guide, transform, or sometimes just dance with the crowd.
“There’s a man in a ball gown in a beautiful garden of white flowers. Something to think about when you go to your office, perhaps,” says Bradford of her subjects. “And then in the stairways I have superheroes flying through the air to guide all of us travelers to where we might want to go, and to guide our thoughts, too.”
The installation was just completed in September, 2021, so it’s a fresh new experience for all visitors. Be sure to include them for your next art-hunting trip on the NY Subway!
Bring it Home! Mosaic Art Can Go Anywhere!
Curious about adding mosaic portraits to your own home? Check out examples in our catalog, and see how our team of artists can transform your favorite photo into a beautiful piece of customized, long-lasting, durable artwork!