We live in the near NW side of Oklahoma City, in a diverse, urban neighborhood of both recent immigrants and professionals, fine old houses and dilapidated flop houses, manicured lawns and homeless vagrants. Nearby is the rejuvenated - indeed thriving - Plaza District. Americans of European, African, Hispanic, Asian, Middle Eastern, and South Asian descent, as well as remnants of dozens of Native American nations, all live nearby.
I did not make my first mosaic until I was in my late forties. For the most part, I taught myself. Over the years I have developed a set of unique techniques and style. I have no formal art training. Much of my art is representational, yet stylized, and portrays a personal mythology of sorts. I do not recognize much of a boundary between the art I do in my mosaics, and that in the rest of my life. One of the most creative things I do is to pick up trash on the street when I walk over to my 21st Street garden.
Resume in brief
In 2010, I was commissioned by St. Paul's Episcopal Cathedral at NW 7th and N. Robinson in Oklahoma City to do a series of seven art panels for a new columbarium as a part of the complete re-construction of their inner courtyard, which was designed by Butzer Gardner Architects. Six of the panels grace the columns of the columbarium, while the seventh, much larger panel is installed at the end of the collonade. The panels were installed in March of 2011. The six smaller panels were photographed prior to installation, and so each have several loose tesserae, where screws were later placed.
In 2009, I was commissioned to fabricate a 10' medallion commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Bethany First Church of the Nazarene in Bethany, Oklahoma. Sunni Mercer, artist and member of the church, led a team that produced the design. The medallion was fabricated using Italian smalti and gold smalti. It was installed in September, 2009.
Included in this gallery are a few shots of a backsplash completed in 2012, and some other seasonal photos taken of tiled concrete cylinders in my own front yard, a project undertaken in 2011 and still evolving.
Sectile and not
Mosaic has lately become a hard-to-define term. Historically, it refers to works made primarily of pieces of stone or glass which have been nipped, chiseled, or cut, and then arranged in abstract or representational patterns. Works that are mosaic in appearance, but use materials other than stone, glass, ceramic, or shell, have also been called "mosaic". These rely on the broader, more generic definition of mosaic, as in a city that is a mosaic of unique neighborhoods, or a mosaic of agricultural fields. Some wonderful work has been done mixing both traditional and non-traditional materials, giving rise to the question, "What factors delineate a mosaic from an assemblage or mixed media work?" The Society of American Mosaic Artists, adopting the "big tent" approach, has so far chosen not to issue its own attempt at a definition.
Opus sectile, or "cut work" in Latin, can be described as a specific technique in mosaic that involves the cutting of stone or other materials with a blade, rather than nipping or chipping the stuff with nippers or hammer and hardie. Actually it may be a whole separate craft, because its main similarity to other mosaic is the materials it uses; the techniques are pretty different.
Just about everything you see in the two detail photos of my work on this page were cut with a regular Felker wet saw. Other works, such as via were cut with a diamond band saw. Nippers, on the other hand, were the only tool used to cut the Italian smalti (enamel impregnated glass) in this detail shot of a commissioned work for a church.
Written and not
I tend to ignore artists' statements when I visit a gallery or website. Many are tiresome and overblown. Others are filled with the latest buzzwords and shibboleths gleaned from art publications - artspeak. If reading the statement is required to understand, enjoy, somehow appreciate the work, then I tend to think that the art itself is deficient. By "art itself" I mean the thing hanging on the wall.
In much of "art" over the past five or six decades, text and context have supplanted visual experience. Concept has supplanted technique and skill - indeed the artist's hand need not even be involved. I have held onto a forlorn hope that contemporary mosaic might prove to be a sort of last bastion against these trends - a sort of anti modern/post-modern/post-art art. High skill, and prolonged and obsessive attention to detail, are requisite to fine mosaic.
This is a wall of statements in our house - various notes, letters, lyrics, lists, and warnings that we have picked up off the streets and sidewalks over the past 20 years. It is not a conceptual wall.
News, if there is any,...
My new work, "the valley", has just been awarded the Award for Technical Distinction at the 2014 Mosaic Arts International, sponsored by the Society of American Mosaic Artists. This year the exhibition will hang in the Williams Tower in Houston
The beautiful, new Hardesty Arts Center in Tulsa is hosting a joint exhibition of Jacqueline Iskander's and my work March 14 through May 3, 2014.
At that same approximate time, several of my works will also be included in "Shattering Expectations" - an exhibition juried by Nancie Mills Pipgras, who runs the influential web site Mosaic Art Now. The exhibition will run March 7 through April 20, 2014, at Isaiah Zagar's Magic Gardens in Philadelphia. It is sponsored by the Magic Gardens and the Mosaic Society of Philadelphia.
The earth moves,...
from drought and roots and rain, and 90 year old sewer lines collapse. Toilets become decorative art. Showers become luxuries.
Most people, forced to choose, would rather have indoor plumbing than art. Plumbers are more important than artists.
Ricki, the parrot, with whom I've had a 26 year relationship, pretty much liked all the commotion, especially the non-stop Mexican radio played by the trench diggers.
The stone patio, which was first constructed to solve a drainage issue, where water from the backyard pooled against the house and seeped into the basement, had to be rebuilt. It's mostly redone, with the addition of the structure for an eventual new, stubby mosaic tube, which now becomes project #1603b.
Commissioned architectural works:
- Bethany First Church of the Nazarene’s 100th anniversary, 10’ medallion, fabricated with Italian smalti, designed by Sunni Mercer, Bethany, Oklahoma, completed fall, 2009
- St Pauls Episcopal Cathedral, NW 7th and Robinson, Oklahoma City: Seven panels, one approximately 6’ x 8’, for a courtyard columbarium, which was designed by Butzer Gardner Architects. Completed February, 2011.
Selected exhibitions, awards and galleries:
- Award for Technical Distinction, 2014 Mosaic Arts International, my accepted piece, the valley, Apr-May, Williams Tower, Houston, TX
- One of eight showcased artists, Shattering Expectations, juried by Nancie Mills Pipgras, Philadelphia's Magic Gardens, Mar-Apr
- Art in Mosaic, a joint exhibition with Jacqueline Iskander, Hardesty Arts Center, Tulsa, OK Mar-May
- Solo exhibition, JRB Art at the Elms, Oklahoma City, May
- My work "via" wins a juror prize at the 2013 Mosaic Arts International, at the Museum of Glass in Tacoma, Washington
- Hard Edge: Twelve Years in stone, porcelain, and glass, Leslie Powell Gallery, Lawton, Oklahoma, Jan-Mar
- 14th Biennial Oklahoma Centerfold 2012 National Juried Art Exhibition, my accepted piece: via, Leslie Powell Gallery, Lawton, Oklahoma, Nov - Dec
- Mosaic Arts International Exhibition, juried exhibition by the Society of American Mosaic Artists, Austin, TX, April,my piece: sub lingua
- Oklahoma Friendly, Oklahoma Art Guild juried exhibition, IAO Gallery, Oklahoma City, March-April
- National Mosaic Exhibition on Cape Cod, juried exhibition, Falmouth, MA, July - Sept
- Collaborating artist, assisting Canadian artist Gerry Lavery with his outstanding Yonge Street church mural, City of Toronto, Canada
- UK/OK: Exploring Traditions in Contemporary Design, Price Tower Arts Center, Bartlesville, OK, Aug – Dec
- Cutting Edges: Contemporary Mosaic Art, Lake Oswego, OR, June
- The Sum of all Parts, juried exhibition, Bathhouse CulturalCenter, Dallas, Mar
- Oklahoma Visual Artists Coalition juried biennial Visionmakers Exhibition, April
- Mosaic Arts International Exhibition, juried exhibit by the Society of American Mosaic Artists, Miami, FL, April
- An Ancient Language – A Modern Translation, Garland, TX, Sept
- Best 2-D for The Clearing, Inspired by...Contemporary Mosaics and the Historical Tradition: A juried Invitational Exhibition of Mosaic Art, Fredericksburg, VA, Oct
- The Sum of all Parts, juried exhibition, Hillsboro, OR
- Breakout, British Association For Modern Mosaic juried exhibition, Bilston Gallery, Wolverhampton, England – one of eight international invited mosaicists. My piece Sunburger featured on banner
- Best of Show for Marketday (II), Mosaic Arts International, Mesa, AZ, the annual international juried exhibition by the Society of American Mosaic Artists
- JRB Art at the Elms solo exhibition, Oklahoma City, OK
- Bits and Pieces, juried exhibition, Studio 2600, Dallas, TX
- JRB Art at the Elms solo exhibition, Oklahoma City, OK
- Society of American Mosaic Artists 2006 National Exhibition, High Risk Gallery, Chicago
- OVAC VisionMakers Biennial Exhibition, Powell Gallery, Lawton, Ok
- LiT Gallery and Bar, Oklahoma City: curator of Fractured Lit, an exhibition of 18 North American mosaicists
2005 and earlier
- JRB Art at the Elms, group exhibition, Function as Art
- My Atlantis, National Juried Exhibition, San Francisco, CA
- Visual Arts Alliance, National Juried Exhibition, Houston, TX
- Oklahoma Watercolor Mixed Media Competition, Oklahoma City University, Equal Merit Award
- Touchstone Gallery, 2005 National Juried Exhibition, Wash., D.C., Honorable Mention
- The Atelier, Miami, FL: National Juried Mosaic Exhibition, Dec 2004, 2005
- Leslie Powell Gallery, Lawton, OK: 11th Biennial “Oklahoma: Centerfold”,Honorable Mention Nov-Dec, 2004
- Mable House Cultural Center, Atlanta, GA: 17th National Juried Art Exhibition, July, 2004
- Outside the Lines IV, juried exhibition , Bathhouse Cultural Center, Dallas, TX, May, 2004
- The Sum of all Parts, juried exhibition, Bathhouse Center, Dallas, Mar 2004
- OVAC VisionMakers Biennial Exhibition, Feb. 2004
- University of Arts & Sciences Seven State Biennial Exhibition, Chickasha and Lawton, OK November – February, 2003-4
- Tulsa Artists Coalition: 12 Days Invitational Exhibition and Auction, Dec.2003
- OVAC Electric Summer Exhibition, Stage Center, OKC: July-August, 2003
- Firehouse Interurban Gallery, Norman, OK: Approximation of the Rift, solo exhibition, March – April, 2003
- IAO Gallery: Biting the Apple Erotic Art Show, 2001, 2003, 2004, 2005
- Oklahoma City Festival of the Arts: Environs Art Furniture Exhibit, 2002, 2003, 2004
- IAO Gallery: three artist group show, May, 2002
- Oklahoma Visual Art Coalition (OVAC), 12 x 12 Exhibition, October 2002 - 2006, 2012
- JRB Art at the Elms, Oklahoma City, selected pieces since Nov., 2003
- Lovett’s Gallery, Tulsa: selected pieces since May, 2006
- Gallery 66, San Fidel, New Mexico: selected pieces since May, 2004
- Studio 6, OKC: guest artist, Dec, 2004
- SunRose Gallery, Seaside, OR: selected pieces since May, 2006
- Society of American Mosaic Artists quarterly Groutline, a front page article discussing the St. Paul’s Episcopal Cathedral columbarium project
- Mosaic Art Now Magazine, 2008, 2009, one of the featured artists
- Daily Oklahoman: May 2002, March 2003, June 2006, July 2007, Feb 2012
- Art Zone: May 2002
- Norman Transcript: March 2003
- Society of American Mosaic Artists: Fall, 2004 Groutline , featured artist
- Historic Living: Cover article, “A spiritual undertaking” August, 2005
- Blood and Thunder: musings on the art of medicine, a literary and arts publication published annually by the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center: Cover photo, Fall, 2005
- Art Focus Oklahoma: A Mosaic Life: Brooks Tower, Jan-Feb, 2006
- Grout , British Association of Modern Mosaics quarterly, Featured artist, June, 2006
- Featured on “Is This a Great State or What?”, KFOR-TV, 2009
The pecan crop is very good this year - puzzling after a summer of 113° days and no rain. The harvest is virtually without worms and tastes especially good this year, and collecting and cracking has been a priority lately. Few activities hold less ambiguity for me; the trees make them and I collect them and we crack them and eat them and give them to friens and family. That's not only an unalloyed good - it pretty nearly ranks in my world as a commandment: Don't waste the pecans.
Besides, if we don't at least get them out of the backyard (they are also all over the front yard, the garden/lot next door, and our garden one block to the north), then the young hound and old husky mix spend all day eating them - which the hound seems to be able to handle, but the husky's 14 year old digestive track does not seem up to the job.
Norman, Oklahoma - a city just 25 miles to our south, has just made legal the keeping of up to four chickens within the city limits. Still, our august City Council balks at the prospect - ostensibly because of the "noise" and the "smell" - even though the city allows the keeping of up to four large canines in any backyard - no mater how tiny, no matter how loud the dogs, no matter how great the stink - and even though proposed ordinance changes do not allow roosters.
This is asinine policy - especially for a city that sees itself as conservative. What business does a city have in requiring its citizens - unless they have at least one acre - to buy eggs and meat from huge poultry factories that pollute watershed and rivers? I've kept chickens for 25 years at this residence - to the approval and delight of my neighbors.
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