July 2, 2008

Summer Stalactites

During a recent seminar on mosaic art I demonstrated some cutting and compositional techniques. “The Opus vermiculatum technique,” I explained, “sharply defines the edges of forms and creates sinuous lines in the back round.” I then cut angles and wedges in the tesserae, placing them along curves that would allow that to happen. The class was lively and the time went by quickly. I packed up my equipment at the end of that rewarding day along with two unfinished “demonstrator” mosaics. I could have left them in this state and probably should have with so many other immediate commitments looming. But I have some compunctions about leaving things in various states of incompleteness before moving on to other projects. Unfinished mosaics have a particularly strong pull on this compunction - staring down at one from a wall or looking plaintively up from a worktable with their pathetic gaping blank spaces. So instead of doing the “smart” thing and getting my work packed up early for my upcoming teaching at McDaniel College, I had to spend some time to sit down and complete the mosaics before sorting and packing materials for my next group of hopeful students.
As I sat in my studio slowly applying bits of glass and stone to cement backer boards, conglomerations of patterns began to emerge which evoked pleasant memories made rosy by their remoteness. The vertical piec to the left reminded me of family summer vacatons replete with trips to caverns. I had a special fondness for caves, especially those with stalactites. I remember in particular a cave with live dripping with mineral-laden water that formed, over eons, the stalagmites on the cavern floor. The mosaic “Stalactites” is made with chips of clear block glass interspersed between slate and marble tesserae. The clear glass chips represent the water dripping from above. Since glass in not actually a solid but in fact is a super-cooled liquid, its use in this vertical study mosaic is apropos for it represents water dripping over thousands of years - which it is in fact doing.

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