Monday, April 22, 2013

Mosaics That Will Entrance! robgirlbooks' First Artist Talk!!

Late last year, I made a promise to reignite my relationship with art. An easy feat in my city. Most people don't associate Tacoma, WA with the arts, but we rock.
Looking down the Bridge of Glass
(By J Brew from near Seattle, USA (Chihuly Bridge of Glass  Uploaded by admrboltz) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Common)

Okay, I've never seen the sax guy any of the times I've ventured to Chihuly's Bridge of Glass, but you get the idea. We also have a fantastic public library system with an art gallery, the Handforth Gallery, which was where I fell in love with the mosaics by John Sollinger. I went to the show with the preconceived notion I would see designs that would make me smile. Thirty seconds in, I realized the world of mosaics was nothing like the pretty slides I stared at in Art History in college. Amazing canvases of glass, stone, and rock. The heavily abstract pieces by various artists were hit or miss with me. I went for movement and flow of energy. Also, I'm pretty easy to dazzle with anything sparkly.

Then my eyes caught a landscape in the middle of eternity and ether; a frozen landscape reached inside my chest and squeezed my heart. I could feel the cold ice. I closed my eyes and I could see my breath.
I wanted to run my fingers over the sharp ridges of glass. More than that I wished there was a bench in the museum so I could park it and stay there in daydreaming land. I haven't had that feeling since I was an art student and dreamy about all things art. Sollinger's work touches on photorealism for sure, especially with one piece that depicts daisies. Goodness, I wanted to stand in that field of flowers and smile up at the sun. In all that realism is the fracture of emotion that glass so superbly reflects.
John Sollinger has a big fan in me. And you know what? He agreed to do a mini-interview with me! Yay!!

Your work is very much science and emotion. With that kind of dichotomy, do you feel split between the two worlds when you're working?
Actually, I find myself in the hinterland where the two worlds converge. The pursuit of science, biology in particular, for my entire adult life has shaped my perspectives and visual vocabulary, but beauty and emotions are the experience of everyone – even scientists. Having recently made the decision to take my artwork more seriously, and, thus, redirect my energies, I am gobsmacked to be learning principles of perception and expression and styles that, heretofore, were unknown to me.

How do you choose your projects?
For the most part, I follow my heart, which belongs to the forest. I make art for myself and without (much) thought of monetary profit, which frees me from concern about the business side of art, such as figuring out what sells, how to better make use of internet home pages. I do think about making my very small body of work cohesive, so I look to find common threads in my projects.

I had a drawing teacher who worked from photographs. While I gaped at your exhibit, I wanted to know your process. Do you take pictures, make a preliminary painting, have a photographic memory?
A photographic memory has long been on my wish list; in its place, I use a digital camera to record patterns and settings that appeal to my sensibilities regarding the beauty of nature and, especially, the untamed remnants that remain. I then look for images that have an overall interesting abstraction (e.g., the balance in tones, the contrasts, and other basic design principles). Then I find a theme, such as radial symmetry, or opportunity for commentary, such my latest work about global warming. I crop, adjust contrast and color saturation, and then print a poster that then serves as my template. As my work progresses, I increasingly react to what I have layed. That helps maintain my interest and results in generating my impression of the subject rather than a biological illustration.

How did your creative side manifest itself when you were a kid?
I do not recall being particularly creative. I spent much of my time climbing trees, instigating fights between spiders, building cages for my hamsters, and reading. Art projects in elementary school are among the few memories I recall of that period of my life.

There are endless stereotypes regarding artists. What is one stereotype that is spot on with you?
Well, I am the absent-minded AND nutty professor, but I am not the starving artist, which is the only artist stereotype I know. I am at once an extrovert and introvert, which, perhaps, describes a significant proportion of artists.

Thanks to John (Solly) Sollinger for taking the time to answer my questions. Northwest Mosaics Today runs through 4/26/13 at The Handforth Gallery (inside the Main Library). If you have the chance, see the show. It's pure visual delight.


  1. I enjoyed my art classes in school. It is amazing how they create so many different things and that they express so much.

    1. My last summer session in college I tutored a little girl in art. She had such amazing talent and was almost bored with it. I quit when we spent more time playing tag than working on elements of art.

  2. A photographic memory has been on my wish list for quite some time as well! I have always loved art. I remember drawing an elephant on my etch-a-sketch when I was four and couldn't stop drawing since. I love the first picture the most. Great interview!! Jaclyn @ JC's Book Haven.

    1. I wish I had an amazing memory too! I vividly remember TV shows and movies. Awesome talent! Drawing an elephant at 4? Wow! And on an etch-a-sketch. I was useless on that thing. My dad is an ink and wator color artist. I used to copy his drawings of coconut trees and landscapes...secretly. I don't think he even knows I did that.

  3. Wow I loved the frozen piece that is amazing, when I think of mosaics I think of the pieces people put in their garden lol. You have opened my mind I am going to do a google search to look up more I wish I could go to the gallery. I love visiting galleries, but my artistry level is still on par with my five year old, stick figures and Abstract lines :( never been creative. So I enjoy what I can through others.

    1. I haven't picked up a brush in over a decade! My skills are past rusty. I was shocked to see what's happening in mosaics. I thought rich gardens and old Spanish homes and things like that too, then BAM. There was one piece by a different artist that was of a woman's back, all sexy and sleek. The image fell apart close up, but standing across the room my eyes were glued to it. I hope to get an art show in at least once a month. I have a standing date with my mother-in-law.