My husband Ramine and I just returned from a wonderful arts conference called “Wings to the Spirit” in Pensacola, Florida—it is sponsored by members of the Bahá’í community in that area, and it featured amazing artists from all around the country. Themes revolved around bringing beauty and spirit into the world through many different art forms—singing, drama, poetry, painting, sculpture, etc.—and using the arts to help create social discourse about topics like community building, appreciating diversity, and empowering women.
I had been to this biannual conference before, but Ramine had never gone; this trip was an early celebration of our 20th wedding anniversary, and we had planned beforehand to buy a special piece of art to celebrate our marriage. There were quite a few talented artists with booths of beautiful art at the conference, but one piece caught our eyes from the beginning, and over the course of the weekend we fell in love with it. I actually had insomnia one night and couldn’t stop thinking about the hauntingly beautiful expression of the little girl in the mosaic; I rarely respond so strongly to a piece of art! Eyes are one of the most challenging elements of any portrait, and they are difficult enough to depict in paint. I can’t imagine constructing them out of minuscule shards of glass, but in this piece they are done so masterfully that they truly feel like a “window to the soul.”
Here is a picture of the artist, Enid Probst, with her masterful mosaic titled “Girl With Beaded Hair”:
I really enjoyed getting to know Enid at the conference, and I greatly appreciate the high skill level behind this piece, which is partly derived from her study of mosaic portraiture with a master artist in Mexico. I thought others might find it interesting to read about Enid’s inspiration and her artistic process, so I am including her description:
“About 5 years ago I began working with a group of people that wanted to improve their community. The city had cleared a lot, and their plan was to construct a community garden that would include art. At one end of the garden we constructed a wall, and I have facilitated the fabrication of a mosaic mural. There have been perhaps 100 people that have helped put tile on the wall; this little girl was one of them. The first summer, which was about 3 years ago, she would come almost every Saturday morning to help. I generally take pictures of the people helping me; the mosaic was inspired by one of these pictures. The lighting was just perfect.
“The materials are a tile called smalti and glass beads. The “earring” is mille fiori. Smalti is a very old and traditional mosaic glass tile. It was primarily made in Venice, but the Perdomo family in Mexico developed their own smalti, which is what I used. I also used a traditional technique called double direct. I prepared a bed of lime paste, transferred my design to the surface, and fabricated the mosaic by pushing cut pieces into the lime paste. This technique allows for a lot of flexibility, since it is easy to pull a piece out of the paste and make necessary adjustments.
“I decide on my tile palette, which covers the range of tones from lightest to darkest. Then I work primarily from a black and white copy that has good tonal contrasts. I also look at pictures in B&W so I know if I am on the right track with regard to tonal contrasts. I simplify the facial contours and make changes to the face, such as changing the shadow shapes, which helps the face “read” better. I frequently step back about 7 feet from the piece to check color and the line of the tiles.”
Enid was kind enough to share with me a few pictures of the work as it evolved:
And here is the piece now, having been safely transported across the country to our home in Oregon and hung in a prominent spot in our living room:
To read more about Enid and her beautiful work, you can connect to her website here.