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I believe that art enriches and informs our lives everyday in many positive ways. Sharing those experiences, whether as an artist or as an appreciator, is part of the pleasure. I welcome your comments and hope you find something of value: a laugh, an insight, a new idea or just a happy moment. Enjoy art!

Friday, October 18, 2013

Back to the Future

Rome is known for its art, especially the work of some of the oldest of the masters who worked under incredible conditions and with very raw materials to create the world's most famous work.  Few artisans opt for working as they did, mixing pigments, creating dye, choosing raw marble in the quarry or mixing and shaping glass for mosaics.  So it was incredibly refreshing to meet Megan Mahan, ex-pat from the Boston area, in Rome and learn about her love for not only restoring art and mosaics but for creating new pieces in methods not traditionally used today.

Here's Megan in her studio with husband Jon Paulo and their son Luca. 
During college Megan decided to become an art conservator (one who restores old or damaged pieces) and thus headed to Italy for further study.  Deep into her studies she fell in love...with an Italian named Jon Paulo and with the field of mosaics.  (and not necessarily in that order!)  You may read more on her website about the elderly craftsman she apprenticed under as well as her restoration work.  But I want to share her work with "micro mosaics."
Like the first mosaic photograph this is tiny, maybe 3x3 inches.  The little pieces on the wood next to the hand are the pieces she uses to fill in the color.  These tiny glass "rods" are in shapes of square sides, rectangular or roundish.  She then nips off a length and embeds it into a mastic (adhesive) that will eventually be covered by with pieces of the rods and left to dry.  (Megan fabricates her mastic with an ancient formula which must "cure" for over a year before being re-oiled to soften and use.)
Here are some trays of glass rods that make up a portion of her color palette.  What if she needs a rosy pink for cheeks and just can't find the color in her stash?  She has to blend it, fabricating a new glass rod.
To make a new color Megan will take pieces of the colors she wants to mix and heat them over the flame of a torch in this "skillet" spoon.  As the glass melts she begins to blend them together until she has a hot gooey glob of well mixed glass which she beats into a square shape maybe 1/2" x 1/2".  This goes back to the blow torch until it is hot enough to pull like taffy so she can stretch it out into long narrow rods. They cool instantly and these rods are then moved to the palette so she can cut them and insert into the rosy cheeks as needed.  Whew! Impressive, no?
I was utterly fascinated by the exacting process and admit I now have higher appreciation for the finished product...and a new respect for the artisans left doing this work.
 Megan also does larger mosaics using marble.  This piece is almost nine feet in length and was commissioned by a church in Jerusalem.  Notice how the top of it, farthest from us, looks painted?  Much of the church art in Rome is mosaic but appears to be painted until you get very close.  Just amazing to think of how tedious and detailed the process is.

Megan was a joy to meet, her calm and cool demeanor giving a clue as to why she has mastered this so beautifully.  Please visit her website and see the variety of ways mosaic art can be used.

ARTfully yours,

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