Published on February 21st, 2013 | by Taylor Majewski0
Interview with Mosaic Artist Mary Clark-Camargo
When beginning work on their backyard, most people turn to large retailers to improve their outdoor living; however, when Mary Clark-Camargo remodeled her outdoor kitchen counter she didn’t run to the nearest IKEA. Instead, she made it herself, turning it into a colorful mosaic.
Since then, Clark-Camargo’s knack for working with glass to create innovative artworks has impressively developed. Though she is best known for her mosaics of the female form, Clark-Camargo’s work varies from chairs to decorative ornaments. Her innovation as a sculptor has been praised on television shows like HGTV and the DIY Network, and she now teaches mosaic classes for other artists in the Los Angeles area.
Currently, Clark-Camargo makes large-scale sculptural pieces from exotic glass, her work permanently exhibited in the Cactus Gallery in Eagle Rock, California, an urban neighborhood in Northeast Los Angeles that has embraced the city’s budding underground art scene. Her pieces are reminiscent of ancient times, when female sculptural forms were symbolic and highly valued. In her work, Clark-Camargo carefully combines pieces of glass, tile and semi-precious stones to create her vibrant figures.
Art Animal had the opportunity to talk with Clark-Camargo to find out more about her artistic pursuits.
Art Animal: Do you draw inspiration from life, photographs or imagination?
Mary Clark-Camargo: My large sculptural Day of the Dead skulls have a little of both, a certain percentage will be highly decorative using DOD motifs; and then there is usually an area with the theme subject of the piece which is sometimes taken from photographs. Some of my abstract pieces just start out with one object or interesting piece of glass and I build from there. At some point it will feel like something organic, such as a seascape.
AA: Do you have any special techniques that you use to create your works?
MCC: Most mosaic work is based in ancient techniques that have been used for thousands of years. We now have the benefit of modern materials. The convergence of these two things has lead to a lot of innovation in the mosaic art world but you must first start with a basic understanding of mosaic. Fortunately, the ancient techniques are still being taught. There is a renewed interest in learning mosaic since the advent of the internet.
AA: Which is more important to you: the subject of your work or the way it is executed?
MCC: Well, as an artistic spirit the subject is always important. Everything you put out there should mean something or you are just organizing and assembling. Execution has an important place in mosaic because there are rules that must be followed or it is just a sloppy mess. You must have a basic understanding of andemento, which is the direction in which your pieces move. One of the things I stress to my students is making your work with the right adhesives for the substrate and materials you are using.
AA: What do you think is the most important influence in your art?
MCC: First, I love religious icons and symbols. Second would be my love of color and texture.
AA:What is the most challenging aspect of working with glass and tile?
MCC: I have been known to spend weeks looking for certain colors in glass. You cannot just mix up a batch of glass to your exact specification. Sometimes you have to make do with what is out there but I will search until I am positive that it does not exist! The other thing is that your andemento is equivalent to your brushstrokes in representational pieces. It can be extremely labor intensive and time consuming to make the glass flow like paint.
AA: Do you have a favorite project that you’ve done? If so, why is it your favorite?
MCC: Yes, it is a piece that I am just finishing up. It is a table called Truth. As I said earlier I love symbols and icons but I have also made pieces based on a single word. I started with the word and decided to make it beautiful so I found an amazing font. The font was in need some sort of foundation to highlight it so I put a winged heart underneath it. At this point it had a tattooish vibe so I added roses underneath, I added some Masonic-like pyramids with eyes in the corners and that set the tone for the rest of the table. There is a lot of magic and mystery to this piece. The table has a drawer and with a name like Truth it was imperative that the inside of the drawer be profound. I ordered dozens of doll eyes and lined the sides of the drawer with them and crackled mirror. The bottom of the drawer has a flying carpet and the word Karma. I have been told that it feels like an alter. I cannot think of a higher compliment.
AA: Where do you place of your work in society?
MCC: Mosaic art is experiencing a new renaissance. Although it is one of the oldest and most enduring art forms, until recently, it was confined to craftsman who passed it down through their families or crafters. With materials becoming more available through the internet and modern methods of fabrication, it is an exciting and innovative time for mosaic artists. There has always been a place for mosaic in public art but I think we are starting to see some mosaic that is a little less traditional, a little more edgy. It is starting to sell in galleries and show up in museums. Every year I try push myself artistically by trying something I have never done before. I have not decided what that will be this year just yet.
Find out more about Mary Clark-Camargo by visiting her website at www.newstoneagemosaics.com.