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SAMA2016: the Recap

So we’re just back from the whirlwind experience known as the SAMA Summit, which took place this year in San Diego, and we thought we’d share some photos and highlights with those in our community who weren’t able to make it.

Between workshops and presentations; the chance to work on a non-profit mosaic project elbow to elbow with other artists in the Mosaic Marathon; shopping at the Vendor’s Marketplace; and three separate mosaic shows -- not to mention the countless opportunities to socialize with mosaicists from all over the world-- it’s a valuable five-day immersion in the current state of the mosaic arts.

There was no raging controversy this year that we could discern, a sign perhaps that the Mosaic Tent has grown big enough for everyone. Every type and style of mosaic was represented, whether at the Mosaic Arts International, a brilliant show which included newer artists along with some already established leading lights; the smaller Masters Invitational Exhibition, featuring Lynn Chin, Irina Charny, JeanAnn Dabb and the international mosaic icon Niki de Saint Phalle; or at the open Salon, where any artist could submit a work for auction.

Niki de Saint Phalle was new to many of us - though not to the San Diego community nor to those who have frolicked by the Stravinsky Fountain, in Paris. Coincidentally, a profile story about this fascinating and controversial artist showed up in the April 11, 2016 edition of the New Yorker magazine. 

And in between or following these events, SAMA participants could tour - as we did, with a few new friends - the mosaic sculptures of Niki de Saint Phalle and others in Balboa Park and elsewhere around the art-rich city of San Diego.

Below are some of the works and sights that we enjoyed, for one reason or another, though there were too many to include here.

If you want to see ALL the works in the MAI and Invitational exhibits, you should order a copy of the 2016 catalogue from SAMA when it goes on sale. But one thing that was widely noted was that, no matter how good the photos, they never quite equalled the “in person” viewing of the mosaics. Yet another reason to resolve to attend next year, when it will be held in the city of….

(drum roll)

DETROIT!  

We hope to see many of you there in April 2017!

At the Salon / Auction, we admired San Diego artist Kim Emerson's red mosaic Rothko tribute, "Rothko in Smalti #2," (there was also a #1...)

"Rothko in Smalti #2" by Kim Emerson

"Rothko in Smalti #2" by Kim Emerson

We lusted after Rachel Sager's  Tolkien-esque "An Alchemical Map of Mosaic," which detailed such recognizable places as  "the Andamento Ocean", "Interstiz Archipelago", "The Great Sandstone Mountains" and a city called "Tesseraoplis"!

"An Alchemical Map of Mosaics" by Rachel Saeger.

"An Alchemical Map of Mosaics" by Rachel Saeger.

And we wondered how we had possibly missed the bidding on Scott Fitzwater's serene and timeless work, "Gaia's Treasures: Rage, rage against the dying of the light".

Gaia's Treasures" by Scott Fitzwater.

Gaia's Treasures" by Scott Fitzwater.

 We were also happy to see IMA student Jacqueline Paull's submission to the Salon, possibly her first?!

"California Spring" by Jacqueline Paull.

"California Spring" by Jacqueline Paull.

Over at the Women's Museum of California, the Mosaic Arts International Exhibit 2016 offered incredible diversity, from Marian Shapiro's  "Lost," a muted marble depiction of a Tasmanian tiger, to "Millenium," another work in tiny glass shards by Atsuko Laskaris so exquisite that it was impossible to capture in a photograph. There were several mosaic sculptures, including the challenging piece, "The Children That Weren't," a tribute to the 1.2 million children who perished in the Holocaust, by Illinois artist Cindy Robin, and a series of whimsical glass portraits on twelve individual river stones, titled "The Jury" by Drucilla Perez-Tubens, of Texas.

Julie Sperling (who has an upcoming solo show here at the IMA next September, we are proud to say) intrigued us with her inventive "Dialogue", in which she found a use for  multi-layered paint chips that had fallen off an old graffiti wall, paired with shards of shale, as tesserae. 

Detail from "Dialogue (The Burden of the Message) by Canadian artist Julie Sperling.

Detail from "Dialogue (The Burden of the Message) by Canadian artist Julie Sperling.

There was a large scale reproduction of Lillian Broca's  dramatic "Judith's Revenge," one of a series of large panels in smalti offering a personal, feminist interpretation of the Old Testament story of Judith. The originals are currently being exhibited in Toronto, and her work was "chosen" by Juror Bernice Steinbaum. In early 2017 the series will move on to the Museum of Biblical Art in Dallas, so you Texas artists will be able to view, in person, Broca's incomparable, storytelling works that one conference participant described as a legacy of our times in mosaic art. 

(A documentary film about the important life work of art promoter Steinbaum as a champion of female and minority artists, was a highlight of the presentations during the week.)

We went back to the exhibit twice (one time after closing, at 11 p.m., but the wonderful museum manager let us in...) to ooh and ah and study up-close the fantastic technique and ideas that were so much in evidence. There really is no substitute for looking at this kind of work from three inches -- or three feet - away.

Insofar as artists from Northern California, Angela  Sanders of Los Altos Hills  won a deserved Technical Distinction Award for her beautiful, ocean-inspired piece, "Roiling."

 

 

 IMHO the piece by Laura Rendlen, "Fog," was her best yet, with her treatment of light reminiscent of the English painter J.M.W.Turner. Imagine capturing a substance as soft and full of light as fog, in materials as hard as glass.

"Fog" by Laura Rendlen. (Marble, slate, smalti, stained glass, tumbled glass, sea spines, rocks )

"Fog" by Laura Rendlen. (Marble, slate, smalti, stained glass, tumbled glass, sea spines, rocks )

"Exercise with Chroma and Lines II" was a stunner by up-and-coming artist Consuelo Sierra, of Texas, who can count Sonia King as her mentor. We're posting this photo large so you can truly appreciate the detail here. Consuelo comes from a Spanish family, grew up in Latin America, and now makes her home in Fort Worth, Texas. We can't wait for her to visit the San Francisco Bay Area!

"Exercise with Chroma and Lines II" by Consuelo Sierra. Can you tell she studied engineering in her other life?

"Exercise with Chroma and Lines II" by Consuelo Sierra. Can you tell she studied engineering in her other life?

After all the exhibits and talks, the parties and the after-parties,  (and let's not forget the trade show madness!) there were still the mosaic riches of San Diego to explore, which we did -- just a bit! One of the draws to this California city as a site for the SAMA conference was, of course, the mosaic work of Niki de Saint Phalle and other artists, including Kim Emerson, which can be seen everywhere from Balboa Park to the shoreline. 

Ilse Cordoni, Consuelo Sierra, and Sherry Tobin examine Niki de Saint Phalle's "Baseball Player," on the San Diego waterfront.  

Ilse Cordoni, Consuelo Sierra, and Sherry Tobin examine Niki de Saint Phalle's "Baseball Player," on the San Diego waterfront.

 

So even if you missed this year's conference, visit San Diego some day! And we'll see you NEXT YEAR IN DETROIT!