Every year since 2004, San Francisco Bay Area artists have contributed their time and talent to a fundraiser for the San Francisco General Hospital Foundation. Hearts in SF offers visual artists the challenge of making art on a three dimensional, white fiberglass heart. The largest heart sculptures are 5 feet tall; while the “mini-hearts” are only 7 inches tall. The hearts are auctioned to support the hospital, now the Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center, a vital medical service for the people of this city.
This past fall the Hearts in SF Campaign approached us for the third time in search of qualified mosaic artists who might want to create some of the mini hearts. This year four artists stepped up to the challenge, including IMA proprietor Ilse Cordoni, general manager Laura Paull, mosaic instructor and staff artist Jill Stevenson-Ritter, and community artist Glynnis Kaye. Each “followed their hearts” to come up with designs; their diversity demonstrating once again the limitless possibilities of this art.
Like 19th century pioneers in the state of California, Ilse followed the trail of gold, borrowing the name of a famous song by Neil Young. She stocked up on gold glass and smalti (she didn’t have to go far -- it is carried in the IMA Supply Store!) hunted down antique gold beads and buttons at the BABE convention in Oakland. A lover of the paisley motif, she managed to cover the 7 by 5 inch heart with no fewer than nine paisleys, even on the difficult underside.
The grout color was an important consideration. White would look like the substrate was showing. Black would be dramatic but might drown the delicate details of many of the beads. Red would make it look like bordello wallpaper. So she went with a tan, unsanded grout and rubbed layer after layer of powdered gold colorant into it. The result was an elegant “gold-on-gold” unity, a look offering surprising subtlety. We hope it goes to someone with a LOT of [real] gold!
Jill Stevenson-Ritter also went “metallic,” but that was an unplanned adventure. Her bubbly red, white and blue abstract emerged from the part of her that was thinking about Paris -- how much she loved the city she had visited so many times both as a flight attendant and en famille. Half way through the production month of November, the Paris terror attacks took place, changing her joy to grief. But she decided not to abandon her idea.
“My sadness for the city inspired me to do a celebratory piece in support of France,” she said. She called it “Paris Je t’aime.”
Jill, who hand cut all the [perfectly round] glass circles, describes her setting style as “light, fluffy, with lots of space between the tesserae.” But in choosing Pewter as a grout color, she made a serious mistake.
“The gray grout just totally killed it,” she admits. “I never grout in white, but it turned out this was the ONE time I should have used it!”
Having succeeded with her gold heart, Ilse proposed brightening the gray with silver colorant. It worked!
“The sanded grout absorbed the silver and brightened it quite a bit,” Jill says.
“Paris, Je t’aime” was the second heart Jill has made for this cause.
“I like the challenge and I like supporting San Francisco General,” she says. “But if it weren’t for Ilse I wouldn’t have been able to deliver!”
“Le Jardin” was also inspired by France, though Glynnis Kaye’s imagination was sparked by “the gardens, with their non-manicured, meadowy landscapes."
Glynnis’ heart is completely covered with tiny, hand-cut glass flowers.
“The challenges I encountered primarily had to do with the scale of the piece,” she says. “The heart is only about 5 inches across, and I wanted a lot of detail, so that meant many of the pieces are about the size of fingernail clippings!”
Such intricate glass work begged to be left ungrouted, but she feared the tiny shards attached with only a drop of adhesive would either be knocked off when handled - or could cut people’s hands when they touched it.
She also had adventures in choosing the grout color: “I wanted something that wouldn’t dull the vibrancy of the colors, but that wouldn’t become a 'statement”' itself.”
She went with a light pinkish tan, which, unhappily, left the piece looking flat and monochromatic. So, in a second guess, she put a slurry of a darker reddish grout over the original color, and voila!—everything came back to life! Saved by Black Cherry! (Unfortunately a discontinued color...)
She noticed “the piece took on an almost cloisonné look at that point, which I liked—an example of the kind of the serendipitous moments that often seem to occur during the mosaic process.”
“Cloisonné” is a word I would also use to describe the way my heart turned out. “On Wings of Love” features a peach-and-white cockatoo sitting on a branch. How did I come to that idea? I confess: it was the color of the stained glass I found that just said "cockatoo" to me. I had not done much 3-D work before and was a little intimidated by the shape, with that vertiginous point at the bottom. But once I laid down the cockatoo's face, I knew it was going to work. The project had special meaning for me as I have memories of a visit to what was then called “the AIDS Ward” at San Francisco General back in the 1980s, when I was a reporter for the San Francisco Examiner. If you’d like to read more about that story and see more in-process pictures, you can check out my mosaic blog.
Our mosaic hearts, along with many of those by other artists, are on display in the windows of Neiman Marcus on Union Square through February 16, to raise awareness of the #HeartsinSF campaign. On February 18, they will be moved to the field of AT&T Park for the big Heroes and Hearts luncheon and evening gala. And then - to the auction block! How wonderful to be able to make a significant public contribution through work that we love to do.
For event tickets (on sale through Feb. 5, 2016) or auction information, visit http://sfghf.org/