Embodied: Mosaic Arts International 2019 Invitational Vanderbilt Fine Arts Gallery

I'm super thrilled humbled and honored to be included in this years MAI Invitational Exhibit at the Vanderbilt Fine Arts Gallery at Vanderbilt University in Nashville. Thank you SAMA and I am thrilled to be in the company of such talented colleagues!!!

La Primavera

Cohen Memorial Hall
1220 21st Avenue South
Nashville, Tennessee 37203

March 13–May 25, 2019

Vanderbilt Fine Arts Gallery is pleased to present Embodied, the 2019 Mosaic Arts International exhibition, surveying figurative works by six renowned mosaic artists working today: Lilian Broca, Shug Jones, Michael Kruzich, Atsuko Laskaris, and Carol Shelkin. The exhibition is part of the Mosaic Arts International 2019 exhibition series held in conjunction with this year’s American Mosaic Summit, taking place in Nashville from April 23 through 28.

The contemporary mosaics on view aim to capture the personal histories, preserved memories, the emotional occurrences of everyday life. Through meticulous manipulations of glass, stone, and ceramic, these detailed works achieve a dynamic range of color, texture, and reflectivity. Their durable materials and methods do not stray far from those from antiquity. Neither do their stories: Scenes presented in Embodied share timeless themes of love and family, conflict and war, spirituality and society.

This exhibition is supported in part by the Society of American Mosaic Artists. Since 1999, SAMA has presented programs, publications, events and exhibitions that promote, educate and inspire excellence in mosaic arts. Mosaic Arts International is the longest running annual juried exhibition showcasing mosaic art in the world.

The American Mosaic Summit will be held at the Sheraton Music City Hotel in Nashville from April 23 – 28, 2019, as well as the 2019 Mosaic Arts International Juried Fine Art Exhibition, on view at the Parthenon Museum, and the Mosaic Arts International Juried Architectural & Site-Specific Exhibition, on view at the Nashville Public Library, Main Branch Art Gallery through May 19, 2019. Find more information, as well as registration information, here. 


Hidden Benefits

I recently went through something that I thought was interesting enough (or horrific enough depending on how you look at it)  of writing about.

For those who like to muse about why I still periodically do reproductions of ancient mosaics: the real answer is because I WANT to. I enjoy it and it makes me happy; semplicamente.


But recently something happened which revealed a hidden benefit. I had a rather large commission (5’x3’) that, once done in Ravenna Method had to be glued and “flipped”.


This is a process I am very familiar and used to. However, during the flip there was a physical slip and the mosaic was impacted in a way that displaced and destroyed the subject’s right lower leg.


Needless to say I was nauseated and absolutely beside myself. Then I realized that all of that  reproduction work I have done over the years was going to come in handy. Not that it lessened my disappointment in the mishap, but since I had photos of what it was finished, I would be able to reproduce my own work in the same way I had done for ancient mosaics so many times.


Everything we learn comes in handy somewhere and you never know when doing what speaks to YOU as an artist (and not someone else) is going to pay off when disaster strikes. Stay true to what calls to you.

Jeanene Pro shot.jpg

Google Signage Commission

Google Signage Commission for new building in Mountainview with a Moroccan-esque design theme. They designed it and wanted to hire a mosaic artist to give it a hand-made look with imperfections here and there to give a tapestry-like impression. Every tesserae is hand cut from unglazed porcelain tiles. 4' x 7'. Will be place on wall behind reception desk, but no idea when the  building will be done; I think sometime this fall.


"La Primavera" selected for Ravenna Mosaic Biennale Festival!!!

I am super excited and honored that my work "La Primavera" has been selected to travel to Ravenna for the RavennaMosaico 2017 Biennale di Mosaico exhibition: Opere dal Mondo October 7-November 26, 2017!I can't even tell you what a dream-come-true this honor is to have a work of mine represent me in the city where my mosaic training and roots began! 
Grazie Grazie Grazie!



RavennaMosaico 2017, Rassegna Biennale di Mosaico Contemporaneo
From 2017 October the 7th to November 26t
Ravenna, 20th July 2017

Subject: announcement about OPERE DAL MONDO 2017 selection

Dear Madame, dear Sir
We hereby are very happy to give you notice that your work has been selected to participate at the Exhibition OPERE DAL MONDO 2017 that will take place in Ravenna at Chiostri Francescani from October the 7th to November the 26th, in the framework of RavennaMosaico 2017, Rassegna Biennale di Mosaico Contemporaneo promoted by Comune of Ravenna and by Associazione Internazionale Mosaicisti Contemporanei (AIMC).
As soon as possible we’ll send to you all the instructions to send us your work.
Congratulating with you we send you our best regards.

Maurizio Tarantino

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"Still Beating" Installed at Linked-in new building! 222 2nd Street, San Francisco!

I am happy and honored to announce that my sculptural mosaic Heart "Still Beating" has been installed in the lobby of the new Linked-in Building in downtown San Francisco!

222 2nd Street is the address!

The building has a colossal public space as well as well as a public lobby. The Heart-work can be seen in the lobby or from the street through windows.

In case you were wondering where you are...

In case you were wondering where you are...

the building has a massive open public space with tables chairs and lots of fresh air!

the building has a massive open public space with tables chairs and lots of fresh air!

the building has a massive open public space with tables chairs and lots of fresh air!

the building has a massive open public space with tables chairs and lots of fresh air!

The troops coaxing it out of hibernation...

The troops coaxing it out of hibernation...

...nothing going on here, nothing to see...

...nothing going on here, nothing to see...

Just a little break before they and 7 other guys hoist this 650 lb baby up a short flight of stairs. I WISH I had videoed that! Incredible!

Just a little break before they and 7 other guys hoist this 650 lb baby up a short flight of stairs. I WISH I had videoed that! Incredible!

The Big Reveal!

...And now some gratuitous shots of the happy father posing by his baby! LOL!

from the street

from the street

The Perfection Trap

Recently I came up against a frustration that I thought was worthy of writing about as it was a good lesson for myself.

From the moment I saw them in person, I’ve always been in love with the famous Byzantine mosaic portraits of Emperor Justinian and Empress Theodora that face each other in the church of San Vitale in Ravenna. I am in good company; these are many peoples’ favorites however my desire to do reproductions of them has haunted me for years and I have finally embarked on doing so.

As I worked on Justinian I was for the most part pleased until it came time to lay the considerable amount of gold in the figure, halo and background.
There was something bugging me about what I was doing that was not capturing the soul of this mosaic for me.
The andamento was correct and clear and I was staying as true to the original as I could. But there was something wrong; and I couldn’t figure out how to fix it.

So I started consulting with my friend Luca in Ravenna who works with Luciana Notturni and her associates who were my teachers.
Luca started pointing out “less regular shapes, less regular shapes, you must mix up the size and dimensions and angles of the shapes”

Luca reminded me of my roots in Ravenna where Luciana Notturni encourage us not to use perfect cuts so as not to make it look machine made but hand-made.
Now, I teach my students that the way you lay the tesserae is much more important than having perfect cuts, but in my own practice I had lost sight of this and wasn’t practicing what I preached!
I teach andamento principles and cleanliness so much that I had forgotten this until His Majesty the Emperor appeared on my easel.

I was trying to stay true to the original as much as possible but I had forgotten somewhere along the way the charm and personal character that imperfect cuts lends to a piece. These in particular.

Also over the years, as I had become better at cutting,  become more experienced and regularly taught andamento to my students in a very clean way,  I had drifted away from this principle.
In my own work I tend to work very clean and consistently, and…(I can still hear Luciana and Annalisa’s voices in my ear “too tight Michael”)
Even when I was doing reproductions I was using the existing andamento lines of the original,  but cleaning them up and making the interstices much more consistent.
This made them clear for the eye but change the look in character of them a bit.

I think in our modern, technological, super clean precise world there is a tendency to strive for surgical precision. I don’t think this is wrong, I just think for me it removes some of the human element from the character of the work.
For my own work I think it may be a matter of me sensing when it is more appropriate to be super clean or strict,  and when it’s more appropriate to be a bit looser and imperfect. For me that often depends on the subject or idea and how I can best illustrate that subject or idea. More of a "feel" rather than a rule. The lesson for me was that, at least for reproducing ancient and Byzantine mosaics, staying with the looser and imperfection of the cuts and laying was the way to go. That’s where part of the character, beauty and charm of them lie.

For instance this very clean-cut border has MUCH less character in my opinion than... 

...this version, which is much closer to the original.

But when it came time to lay the gold in the background I worked with the existing andamento lines but cleaned them up in my usual fashion and found that it looked terrible.
Totally missing the character of the imperfect cuts and imperfect laying lines of the original.

After consulting with Luca in Ravenna, even when I tried to consciously vary the shape of tesserae I found myself laying in clean lines unlike the original.
It ended up looking more like some Venetian styles where everything is perfectly fit together,  than it did the Ravenna style the original was done in. This resulted in it being clean and correct, but completely unsatisfying style-wise or character-wise to me.

My friend Michael Photopoulos, who works a lot with iconography, compared the looser Byzantine Ravenna styles to a textured velvet; meant to be seen from a bit of a distance. As opposed to some more modern Venetian styles to silk; that look perfect and seamless even up close. I like that comparison.


So after struggling some more in the studio and talking to a couple of other colleagues, I discovered that to get that look, it involves a conscious effort to actually try to cut irregular pieces and lay them slightly irregularly.
So I set to work purposely pre-cutting irregular shapes. More than once I had to laugh at myself when I found myself hesitant to lay the tessera and reaching for the hammer to adjust the cut to fit more smoothly! It was almost compulsive at this point!

Set it, Adjust it, Leave it. As my colleague Lawrence Payne says: https://www.facebook.com/364148084728/photos/a.10154054775054729.1073741872.364148084728/10153327195164729/?type=3&theater



It took a conscious effort to not adjust it and get it out of my hand and laid in the approximate background andamento with not such clean interstices. BUT in the end I was absolutely thrilled with the stylistic outcome and had to go back and roughen up what I had already cut and laid the previous day. There’s way more to do but I’m staying with the rough cuts for the background. Another advantage of working the gold looser is that you have the ability of tilting the tesserae slightly in various directions as the Byzantines did to reflect the available light from many directions.


For myself I had to take a lesson to beware of the perfection trap. I think that sometimes with too much perfection you may sacrifice the human element in the look of a mosaic. We want to see YOU and YOUR hand. Not a machine’s perfection.

I like to say "Strive for excellence, not perfection. There is a difference."

La Primavera selected for 2016 Mosaic Arts International Exhibit in San Diego

Dear Michael Kruzich,

We are very pleased to inform you that your work, La Primavera, has been selected to be included in the Mosaic Arts International 2016: Fine Art exhibition at Women’s Museum of California at Liberty Station in San Diego, CA.  We received over 200 entries from artists all over the world. The 2016 Jurors, Elaine M. Goodwin, Sherri Warner Hunter, and Bernice Steinbaum, carefully considered every piece. Their dedicated work culminated in the selection of 35 works for inclusion in the MAI Fine Art exhibition to be held from March 30 – May 27, 2016.  Congratulations! 

La Primavera.JPG

"Still Beating"-Located at the corner of Geary and Powell, Union Square, San Francisco through October 2015

"Still Beating" is a large-scale sculptural mosaic created for the Hearts for San Francisco Program benefitting the Trauma Center at San Francisco General Hospital. It represents aproximately 930 hours of work and over 54,500 hand-cut and laid tesserae in natural stone, Italian smalti, 24-k gold and Swarovski crystals. It lives at the corner of Geary and Powell streets in Union Square, San Francisco through October 2015.