Isaiah Zagar : Creative Minds Art History Project

I love to travel, and was lucky growing up to be part of a family who enjoys a change of scenery every so often as well. An experience that still stands in the forefront of my mind is accidentally happening upon one of the most breathtaking displays of public art I have ever seen while in Philadelphia on one of the last trips my immediate family and I would take together in our little quartet before my brother and I were “officially” grown-up with our own jobs, schedules, and lives.

Mosaic artist Isaiah Zagar has his work across buildings all over Philadelphia and throughout the rest of the country as well, but his Magic Garden is something special, a truly immersive art experience that really does feel like you are being transported into a different universe temporarily as if by magic.

Though he started as a painter, he ended up becoming most known for his public mosaic work. He became an integral part of the “South Street Renaissance” in the 1970s, bringing excitement, inspiration, and beauty to the ignored and abandoned areas of his hometown. The interesting thing is, he only discovered this medium because of others’ willingness to invest and believe in the talents and well-being of those who are struggling. It was while being hospitalized for a breakdown related to undiagnosed bipolar disorder that he was introduced to mosaic making, and he credits this art practice with bringing him out of his depression. Zagar has stated that he was determined to use his breakdown as a springboard into positive mental and spiritual growth, and though mental health is a chronic struggle, he has done just that. At 80 years old, he is still here, filled with an enthusiasm for lifelong learning.

Zagar’s mosaics aren’t just glass and tiles. He utilizes a wide range of materials, much of it upcycled “trash”, and integrates painting and poetry into his designs as well. I had my students make their own mini mosaic on 12×12 tiles using a variety of mixed media materials such as glass pieces, broken jewelry, beads, discarded board game pieces, and more. This is a great way for art programs to use up any odd donations or miscellaneous supplies. I work with students with a wide range of abilities in my Express Yourself Artshop program, and we also have time constraints since we typically spend 1-3 weeks on one project before moving on to the next. To make mosaic art work for our needs, we had students paint the background of their tile whatever color they wanted to show through in between their mosaic pieces, and after they had chosen their pieces and laid out their design we used Weldbond adhesive to attach the parts rather than using grout.

It was interesting to see the messages and themes students were drawn to include in their work, and I was happy to hear that many of them found the process inspiring and therapeutic, same as Zagar did.

If you are interested in learning more about this artist, one of Zagar’s sons created a fantastic documentary about his father’s journey. You do not have to be perfect or feel like you have everything figured out to use your gifts and skills to bring light and life to others. Even through his intense struggles, Zagar has had a profoundly positive impact on his community and continues to do so to this day.

Adventure and Inspiration

Sometimes things get tough. Sometimes it seems to take every modicum of energy to perform the most minute of daily tasks, from getting dressed in the morning to remembering that you’re supposed to say hello to people as you walk into work at 9 am. Sometimes you can’t even detect why everything suddenly seems so hard.

September has been a tumultuous month, but it has also been a month filled with excitement and events, travel and possibility. These little adventures, no matter how minor, are most needed when you are tired, ready to give up, and just want to stay at home sitting on your couch playing Sims.

Creative 360 had been preparing for its Artshop, Do-Art, and VSA Exhibition and Showcase for over a year, and it finally came together in the beginning of this month. It was so amazing to see the students I, as Program Coordinator, along with our many gifted instructors, had worked with finally get to perform their music, dances, and monologues as well as display their beautiful artwork in a gallery setting. For many, it was their first time showing their art to anyone other than friends and family.

I had to “entertain” guests in between performances, a challenge because I don’t think I am an overly entertaining person except for when I am not meaning to be. However, I lived to tell the tale, and was told I said many wonderful things although after the fact I could not for the life of me remember what they were :P. When having to speak publicly I tend to enter a sort of fugue state. Luckily, it is a brilliant one. There were a few kerfuffles along the way, but the whole show really came together in the end. (Kerfuffle is one of my favorite words, as it can be used to describe such a wide variety of daily societal occurrences.)

Our special highlighted projects made a splash as well. We had a 3’x4′ canvas composed of 80 squares in which each student filled in a square or 2 with the media and subject matter of their choosing to create an expressive patchwork. If you like what you see, it’s available in print form in Artshop’s Redbubble Shop.

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Another project by artist Heather-Dawn Deogracia was another that expressed the unique personalities of the students taking part in our show. Heather-Dawn asked students to write down their favorite colors and something about themselves. She used this information to create blind contour drawings for each, resulting in a series of vibrant abstract portraits.

There was another opening shortly thereafter at Studio 23 in Bay City, MI for their All Area Michigan show. I got 3 of my pieces in; Be My Eyes, I’d Have Been Happier As A Bird, and Be My Wings; which needless to say was ridiculously exciting. I also got into the Midland Center For The Arts Greater Michigan Art Exhibition which I applied to the last 2 years and didn’t get in. I almost didn’t apply this year but last minute decided, what the heck. That just goes to show … never give up and all that good stuff ;).

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My last recent adventure was a trip to New Orleans with my boyfriend. The first adventurous moment of this trip was traveling with nothing but a “personal bag” and a carry on between the 2 of us. I like to be prepared for any possible occurrence (or “kerfuffle” if you will, there’s that word again!), so this was a struggle. I’m so type A I made an excel spreadsheet listing everything I needed to pack with accompanying check boxes.

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Literally everything was rainbow colored, and everywhere we went there was music playing. It was like having your own theme music as if you were a fictional TV character, so basically amazing. It was so weird to return at the end of the week to shades of brown and grey, and peace and quiet.

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There was this great band that played Sinatra and Louie Armstrong covers  we discovered on the first night that we revisited every night afterward until we left.

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I also got to see a Warhol painting in person. Even though he seems like he was kind of an ass and didn’t actually do his own work, I must admit it still felt awesome.

Next up, Art Prize 2016! Check back for my “Artists To Know” Art Prize 2016 Edition post, where I will share my top picks from the art I was able to see over the weekend.

 

 

Back to Real Life, But Excited For What’s To Come.

I just got back from one of the most fun trips yet to the charming and exciting land of Ludington, MI; hiking, swimming, sketching on the beach … my boyfriend and I were determined to jam in everything that epitomizes summer before it’s too late! I vowed to not check my email to make it a true reprieve, but I did peek just once in the car on the way there, and I’m glad I did because I got some awesome news. Two of my pieces were accepted into Studio 23 in Bay City’s Women’s Perspective show for September! If you’ve read my earlier post, ladies sometimes get forgotten in the gallery scene even today, so I am excited and honored to be a part of what I’m sure is going to be a wonderful show. Below are the two works that will be showing. If you’d like to learn more about the process of creating “On My Mind”, you can visit my earlier entry focusing on this piece.

On My Mind

On My Mind

The Peacock

The Peacock

Another fun surprise was the new murals up in Ludington to take touristy photos in front of! Art truly is everywhere, and it is wonderful. Murals aside, not to be cheesy, but one can’t look at the serene layers of bright blue water, warm yellow-beige sand, and bold green foliage and not see the very world we live in as one of the largest, most complex creations to ever exist, and truly the largest, most interactive art project.

Me posing oh-so-cool in front of my favorite mural of the bunch.

Me posing oh-so-cool in front of my favorite mural of the bunch.

Behold!

Behold, bright colors! Yes, that is Spider-man on my t-shirt.

I just ate it after a wave literally knocked me on my butt while I was wading out. There were weather warnings out all day, which of course means perfect day to go swimming! Thrill seeker 4 life.

I just ate it after a huge wave literally knocked me on my butt while I was wading out. There were weather warnings out all day, which of course means perfect time to go swimming! Thrill seeker for life, man.

Revisiting Photography

In the last post I introduced you to some inspiring photographers with intricate, fantasy based, mind-bending designs. Little known to many, I myself enjoy photography as well. Photography is certainly more of a hobby for me than something I was ever interested in pursuing professionally. I mostly use it as a relaxing exercise for stress control :). I have not actively gone out to take photos in quite a few months now. Between working on my own pieces, working on commissions, teaching, and crafting accessories and plush toys I’ve had to pick and choose which creative pursuits to focus my time on to avoid the whole “jack of all trades, master of none” trap. When I do get out with my camera, my favorite things to photograph are street art, graveyards, and nature (though I’m not too into flowers, unless they are ridiculously colorful). Most of my street art photos are from when I had the amazing opportunity to travel to Europe with my family back in 2008. “Street art” in Midland, MI where I grew up is rather uninspired … mainly consisting of F-bombs and anarchy symbols, the actual political meaning of which is probably lost on the perpetrators anyway, sloppily scrawled in red spray paint. For some reason, it is always red, and any additional words are usually misspelled.

I was going through my photo storage drive last night, and realized that though I’ve taken a lot of photos over the last 7-ish years, I’ve never really done anything with them. I enjoyed the journey of traveling to a new place, or hiking in a wood nearby to town, dumped my camera card, and then just kind of left the images sitting there in limbo. I decided it wouldn’t take too long to put them to good use, and began uploading them to my Zazzle and Redbubble shops. If I’m going to enter a piece into a gallery or a juried exhibit, it is always going to be a drawing or painting rather than a photo print because that is where I want to focus myself and that is what I am known for, but where my watercolor paintings or pencil drawings are softer and more flowing, the bold colors and sharp graphics of a digital photo really bring a nice look to a T-shirt, skirt (I am absolutely in love with how the rose one shown below turned out!), tote bag, or phone case. I will be continuously adding more products and different photographic images over this next week (I do have 7+ years worth to sort through :)) including cards and stickers. With the nice weather, maybe on my next day off I’ll even dust off my camera and go for a good hike, see what catches my eye.

Macro Magenta and Yellow Rose Zazzle

Macro Magenta and Yellow Rose Zazzle

Diner Girls Street Art Redbubble

Diner Girls Street Art Redbubble

Pisa Notebook Journal Zazzle

Pisa Notebook Journal Zazzle

Silent Angel IPad Case Redbubble

Silent Angel IPad Case Redbubble