Traced all the way back to Mesopotamia in the third millennium BC, mosaic art is synonymous with the Ancient Greeks, early Christianity and Islam, as well as some of our most modern artists. Having such history to draw from makes the current work in this medium all the more striking. The pieces’ structure, built piece by piece, draws in the eye from across even the largest room.
The beauty of the mosaic is its ability to provide the viewer with a variety of visual experiences. While one sees a single and complete image from afar, a few steps closer opens up the realities of their intricacies and detailed construction. They have a luring and enticing attribute that brings viewers closer and keeps their eyes occupied.
There is no limit to the surfaces upon which these works can be formed. Artists like Loring Cornish, who completely transformed his studio of two Baltimore row houses into one massive mosaic work inside and out, challenge our perceptions of this medium. Marcelo de Melo has graced Europe with his “structural mosaics”, which are three-dimensional and appear to move in their stillness. We have come a long way from the early days of the mosaic Madonna and her gravitas.
There are even artists who, while not categorized as mosaic artists, have taken the simple concept and transformed it into another medium entirely. Take Chuck Close for example, whose massive painted portraits are made up of mosaic-like portions of paint that come together when viewed from afar. The doors mosaics have opened for modern artists are exhilarating.
Part of the widespread accessibility of mosaic work lies in its lack of material limitations. While traditional work often features glass or stone, the artists’ options include anything and everything from beads to paper to fabric. Any pieces that make up a whole have mosaic potential.
This medium truly transcends its traditional and ceremonial origins. There is comfort in seeing it as a part of our childhood crafts, public art in the cities we love, and on our very own walls. The patterns and designs force us to pause for an extra moment among our hectic surroundings, keeping us mesmerized.