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23 posts from commissioned work

Custom Security Grates with Kinetic Sculpture Design

These two grates are a commission for an apartment building in Texas. Both are made from recycled/reused components (other than the steel for the frame). Both grates have kinetic elements that spin, turn or bobble.

I love adding moving parts to fences, gates and grates to give them a more dynamic and interactive presence.

Mosaic Sign Commissioned By Alden State Bank

Alden Bank mosaic Sign commission

Alden State Bank Sign, 2005
Vitreous glass mosaic over Durock in powder coated steel frame

48" H x 96" W x 6" D
Commission

This project was commissioned by Alden State Bank for their corporate headquarters in Alden, MI. The sign took several months to complete, even with the help of my daughter Mya. All the tile was cut by hand.

From across the street, the trout looks almost photoreal, which was really the look I was going for. The tile is iridescent glass from the Sicis line, so when the light hits it, it makes the trout look even more realistic. The last thumbnail image below shows a detail of how the iridized tiles look when catching the light.

Click here to view more glass mosaic in the portfolio.

Alden Bank mosaic Sign mosaic sign commission Trout detail mosaic sign commission
  Alden Bank Sign reverse side mosaic detail
click thumbnails to view larger image. enlarge

Mosaic Bear for the American Red Cross

Mosaic Bear for the American Red Cross
Free Spirit, Mosaic Bear 2005
Ceramic tile over fiberglass.
Exact dimensions unknown: Your basic life-size bear
Private Collection

Free Spirit was created for the 2005 fundraiser Great Northern Hunt for Bearable Art organized by The American Red Cross of Northern Lower Michigan. An anonymous donor sponsored one of the bears and specifically requested that I mosaic it. I couldn't get anyone to spill the beans as to  this mystery benefactor's identity, but I'd like to thank them here for picking up the tab on my entry to the outdoor art project. 

The life-size fiberglass bears are based on a sculpture by Glen McCune commissioned by the Red Cross as a follow-up to their 2003 Fish-In, which featured over 50 outdoor fish sculptures and raised more than $300,000 for local Red Cross services.

If you're curious how long it takes to cover such a large sculpture in tile, you can follow along with the more or less daily blog posts I posted while working on the project: Day One, Day Two, Day Three, Day Four, Day Five, Day Six, Day Seven, Day Nine + Ten, Day Eleven + Twelve, The Auction!

As shown below, my bear was chosen to greet everyone as they first came in to the auction tent.

Mosaic Bear for the American Red Cross

La Siren II: A Mosaic Mermaid Sculpture in Bottle Caps and Glass

La Siren bottlecap mermaid mosaic
La Siren, 2000
Vitreous glass, bottle caps, stone, copper, glass eyes, Hardibacker substrate

60" H x 36" W x 1.5" D
The Lynne Ingram Collection of Folk Art
click photo to view larger image. enlarge

Christy MacLear commissioned this piece for her gallery, Fleur Fine Art, because people kept asking her to sell the mermaid from her private collection and she couldn't bring herself to part with it. She gave me "total artistic freedom" to create any bottle cap mermaid I wanted to and I took that ball and ran with it. You gotta love the bottle cap dreads!

I was inspired to do bottle cap mosaics by Haitian ritual flags, in which detailed images are realized entirely through the use of sequins. Each cap is sorted by brand or color, washed, dried, punched, partially crimped and finally nailed in overlapping scales to create a feeling of depth, light and shadow. Decorative nail heads emulate the texture of seed beads often used to reinforce the sequins.

My bottle cap mosaics revisit the playful, funky spirit of my early found object collages. Combining the caps with Italian glass mosaic carries elements of folk art and recycling into a modern fine art context.

I also did a cut metal collage this year working from the same mermaid image used for this piece. Take a look at it here.

Abstract Slate Wall Mural

abstract slate wall mosaic mural
Abstract Slate Wall Mural, 2002
Chinese slate.
126" H x 90" W
Commission

This project was a bit of a challenge…create a visually pleasing abstract pattern working within a 5 x 7 grid. The goal was to create a surface which added warmth, colors, and pattern without overwhelming the room. Almost a formalist riddle… but one with nice results!

The room has been repainted since  these photos were taken. I'll have to update the pics when I get a chance.

abstract slate wall mosaic mural abstract slate wall mosaic mural
View from left of stove.
View from right of stove.
click thumbnails to view larger image. enlarge

Four Marble Mosaics Commissioned by Northeastern University, Boston

tofftvag marble mosaic
The Toftevaag, Marble Mosaic, 2002
Marble  mosaic, steel frame.
33" H x 25.5" W x 1.25" D
Collection: Northeastern University, Boston

The above mosaic portrays the Toftevaag, a century-old Norwegian fishing boat re-outfitted as a research vessel, sailing off the coast of the Rock of Gibraltar.

One of four mosaics commissioned by Eson Chan, Art Director at Northeastern University Magazine, to illustrate an article about dolphin watching off the coast of Spain. Days of the Dolphin, by Gary Goshgarian ran in the November Issue, 2002. Although created expressly for publication, the mosaics remain in the university's permanent collection.

The mosaics below show typical coastal houses off the coast of Greece, a close-up of a dolphin and dolphins at play in the Alboran Sea..

coastal houses marble mosaic Dolphin marble mosaic Dolphin marble mosaic
Coastal Spain, 2002:
Marble Mosaic
18" x 18" x 1.25"
Dolphin, 2002:
Marble Mosaic
18" x 18" x 1.25"
Dolphins at Play, 2002:
Marble Mosaic
18" x 18" x 1.25"
click thumbnails to view larger image. enlarge

Anatomy Chart Marble Mosaic

Anatomy Chart Marble Mosaic
Human Anatomy Marble Mosaic, 2005
Marble  mosaic, copper.
36" H x 24" W x 1.5" D
Collection: Thera-Massage, Evanston, IL

When Tommy Jenkins opened his own massage therapy clinic,  he  wanted a stellar piece of art to dress up the waiting room.

Originally he was interested in a steel wall sculpture depicting musculature. A day or two later, it occured to me that some of the anatomical illustrations I've seen would look absolutely stunning done in marble mosaic— red marble with white veining is exactly the same color as human musculature. I suggested the idea to him and we ran with it.

The mosaic is based on an anatomical drawing by Bartolomeo Eustachi, Italian anatomist, born ca. 1500-1513, San Severino, Ancona; died August 27, 1574. There are links to the original art, as well as a whole library of antiquarian anatomy drawings on my previous post about this project.

Check out detail image of the hand below.   The tendons came out really well.

Anatomy Chart Marble Mosaic Muscle detail Anatomy Chart
Human Anatomy Marble Mosaic, detail 2005:
Marble Mosaic, copper
click thumbnails to view larger image. enlarge

Community Harmony Through Song & Play, Panel 1: Music

Community Harmony Through Song & Play public art mosaic
Community Harmony Through Song & Play, Panel 1: Music, 2001
Ceramic mosaic on wood substrate.
66" H x 48" W x 2" D
Public Art Commission

Panel 1 portrays musical styles which have been cornerstones of the African American culture and experience. The sax man probably plays jazz or blues. The banjo player picks out a country blues or maybe a dance tune. The woman may be singing gospel, though the song could as easily be Motown, blues, or a traditional field holler. The blending of these musics shows how each has grown from the songs before it and also that working together is required to make the music sweet, that respecting heritage gives it depth, that inventiveness and improvisation give it the edge to move on into tomorrow and discover an even better world.

One of three mosaics created for Manly Career Academy High School in Chicago's North Lawndale neighborhood. Assisted by Caswell James and advised by veteran muralist Nina Smoot-Cain, I worked with a team of nine community youths to design and produce three mosaic panels totaling 66 sqare feet. Commission sponsored by Chicago Public Art Group with support from Gallery 37 and the Mayor’s Office of Workforce Development.

To read a detailed account of the project, click here.

click thumbnail to view larger image. enlarge

Community Harmony Through Song & Play, Panel 2: Arts and History

Community Harmony Through Song & Play public art mosaic
Community Harmony Through Song & Play, Panel 2: Arts and History, 2001
Ceramic mosaic on wood substrate.
66" H x 48" W x 2" D
Public Art Commission

An African horn player blows his horn from the deep past, communicating with the sax man in the first panel. Behind him a mask hangs like the sun in the sky. The abstract pattern was inspired by African textiles and African American quilts. This mosaic asserts that tradition can be a lively living thing, that introspection and intuition can lead to innovation without bulldozing the inspirations we may discover in our history.

One of three mosaics created for Manly Career Academy High School in Chicago's North Lawndale neighborhood. Assisted by Caswell James and advised by veteran muralist Nina Smoot-Cain, I worked with a team of nine community youths to design and produce three mosaic panels totaling 66 sqare feet. Commission sponsored by Chicago Public Art Group with support from Gallery 37 and the Mayor’s Office of Workforce Development.

To read a detailed account of the project, click here.

click thumbnail to view larger image. enlarge

Community Harmony Through Song & Play, Panel 3: Peace in the Park

Community Harmony Through Song & Play public art mosaic
Community Harmony Through Song & Play, Panel 3: Peace in the Park, 2001
Ceramic mosaic on wood substrate.
66" H x 48" W x 2" D
Public Art Commission

In the park a band plays, a man and woman dance, a child jumps to catch the notes in the air. Creative spirits float above a pond, embracing. A man sells balloons and children get sno-cones from a pushcart vendor, a common sight in North Lawndale. The park is clean and people are enjoying their neighborhood, free to play and relax. life is good because mutual respect and effort have created a safe and joyful environment.

One of three mosaics created for Manly Career Academy High School in Chicago's North Lawndale neighborhood. Assisted by Caswell James and advised by veteran muralist Nina Smoot-Cain, I worked with a team of nine community youths to design and produce three mosaic panels totaling 66 sqare feet. Commission sponsored by Chicago Public Art Group with support from Gallery 37 and the Mayor’s Office of Workforce Development.

To read a detailed account of the project, click here.

click thumbnail to view larger image. enlarge
John T. Unger