With “El Niño” waiting in the wings to relieve a desiccated California this winter -- or not! -- we’ve finally become aware that water is our most precious resource. Our winters used to be synonymous with rain. Our rivers used to overflow their banks. Now water is the new gold.
This thinking is the focus of our new group show opening Saturday, November 14, with the title, “Water, Water, Everywhere…”
“When we first started thinking about a theme for a winter show, California and the West were years into a drought. We still are,” notes IMA proprietor Ilse Cordoni.
I thought about the traditional rain dances of many Indigenous peoples. Could we not at least ask art to invoke our respect for water, our love for it, our need?
We put out a call to mosaic artists, asking whether water had ever inspired their work. We received an outpouring of responses not only from the West but also from across the continent and as far away as Argentina. Apparently water is not only relevant but an enduring source of creativity.
This curated show offers the interpretations of 22 mosaic artists on the theme of water, from its multiple forms - snow, ice, rain, rivers, puddles, lakes, and seas - to the life that depends on it, to its magical visual properties. Happily, the subject also enables a demonstration of the infinite varieties of style in mosaic art.
The show includes the much-awarded glass-on-glass piece, Snowfell, by John Sollinger, who teaches at Southern Oregon University in Ashland and describes his technique as “mosaintings” - a blend of mosaic and painting.
Sollinger writes that the mountains and forests of the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument in southwest Oregon continually inspire him.
“In my cabin in the mountains I woke up to fresh snow one morning, saw a magnificent scene, took an image, and based Snowfell off that image several years later. We have had little snow since that image was taken, so I view it as a sign of climate change. We are losing mountain snowpack, which translates to less snow melt and runoff into our streams, lakes and rivers,” he cautions.
“I chose not to depict water, but to imply the beauty and necessity of water,” said Annette Markin from Reno, of her work, Abundance. “In everyday life, many of us take for granted the ease and abundance of this most coveted and necessary resource, so easily acquired, yet often received without thought or thanks. I think this piece creates an interesting conversation as opposed to just an image.”
Markin took her first mosaic classes with IMA founder Laurel True and says she is “very excited” to return to the Bay Area for this show.
As is Robin Moyher of Sacramento, who created a 3D water cycle mosaic depicting an ocean and wave, the clouds, rainfall and a waterfall flowing back to the ocean.
“I wanted the challenge of the 3D effect along with the message that water flows in a continuous cycle, always flowing somewhere,” Moyher says.
Randina Casenza, an East Bay mosaicist, says that in considering the water theme, “I thought about how luxurious water is, pouring freely from an infinite source. Of course, we are in a drought, so in my mosaic a finite amount of water flows from a container." She uses the exquisite, Italian, hand cut class called “trasparenti” to capture its properties of translucence. (P.S. We sell trasparenti in our store...)
North Bay resident Jane Russell says "I was driven by my desire to capture the beautiful reflectivity of falling rain or sleet” in her piece, City Sleet. She uses long, thin pieces of clear textured glass placed on their edge, with silvery beads at random intervals.
Guillermina Gómez’ vitreous tile piece, Rain Drops, which is traveling all the way from Buenos Aires, is an abstract study in blue that suggests the splash of falling water. Another work, by the Bay Area mosaic artist Kim Larson, also focuses on water droplets in a series of 3-D mosaicked substrates.
Jo-Ann Dao’s mosaic, Gliding the Pacific Currents, depicts not the ocean so much as one of the special creatures that live in it.
“I am fascinated by octopi and their beautiful fluid movement in the ocean,” says Dao. “There are over a million known species of plants and animals who live in our oceans and they all come in all kinds of weird shapes, sizes, and colors. I would like people to take a moment to see and get to know what a vital part they play in the health of our planet.”
The show also features work by several Berkeley and Bay Area mosaic artists, including Oakland’s Gina Dominguez; IMA staffers Jill Stevenson-Ritter, Randina Casenza, Deborah Block, and Laura Paull; and many others.
Alameda-based poet Emmanuel Williams, originally of Great Britain, will perform three of his poems about water on opening night.
When people come to the IMA gallery, they will pass through an outdoor patio that will feature, in addition to its permanent mosaic murals, a 6-foot ‘totem’ called Water Body by Donna Billick of Davis, California. Billick is co-director and co-founder of the Art / Science Fusion Program at the University of California, Davis, and is known far and wide for her community-based mosaic public works and statues.
"Water Body is bringing awareness to that our bodies are about 73 percent water,” she says. “Water flows along the veins of our earth and through the human body, being the source of all growth and life. This totem freezes a cascade of transparent glass and mosaic jewels in a call to prayer for our most precious resource, water.”
Water, Water, Everywhere opens Saturday, November 14 from 6-8 p.m. at the Institute of Mosaic Art, 805 Allston Way, in Berkeley, 94710. The reception is free and open to the public.
The show runs through January 12, 2016, and many of the works are for sale. The IMA is open to the public Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays, except for holidays; please call ahead to confirm, at (510) 898-1174.