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6 posts from public art

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

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

DisneyQuest Chicago: Mosaic Mural and Sculpture for Cows On Parade

Disneyquest Chicago Mosaic Mural
DisneyQuest Chicago: Mosaic Mural and Sculpture, 2005
Plastic rhinestone mosaic.
Commission

This was a project I worked on as part of a hired crew at Skyline design. We made an 1,800 square foot mosaic for the face of the DisneyQuest building in Chicago using one inch reflective plastic rhinestones. If I'm counting the windows right, this thing was 13 stories tall… it was definitely huge.

While we were at it, they had us make a cow for Chicago's Cows On Parade.

Disneyquest Chicago 02-1 Disneyquest Chicago 03-1
click thumbnails to view larger image. enlarge

The Vista Project: Open Source Public Art Sculpture

Vista Sculpture Project
The Vista Project, Open Source Public Art Sculpture, 2005
Steel.
36" H x 24" W x 8" D
Open Public Art Project (for details, email me)

Vistas is a series of identical sculptures designed for installation in a site-specific context in multiple locations. The iconic steel window sculptures are intended to frame unconventionally beautiful scenery—views specific to the character of a place but unlikely to show up on a postcard. Examples of such sites might include a panorama of historically significant buildings, parks or gardens, a naturally occurring landmark or even an interesting shadow visible once a day. Vista windows call attention to unexpected beauty in the same way that a landscape photographer chooses where to stand and shoot.

The windows are finished in brightly colored powder coat enamels to increase visibility and give them a friendly and inviting appearance. Powder coat enamels are environmentally friendly and are among the most durable finishes available for outdoor work. For safety, no glass is used.

The photos below are of a prototype version that I tested out one day in Chicago. It gets the idea across a bit, I think, but I feel the piece would ultimately be more successful as a group project where sites were nominated by people who wanted to mark their favorite places. The day that I was doing the photo shoot, I'd been gone from Chicago long enough that some of the places I would have marked had changed and others had slipped my recollection… So I was wandering about trying to find examples of the kind of neglected beauty I had in mind, rather than calling attention to spots I knew were there.

More information on the project is available on the studio blog: Vista Project Details/Design Specs.

Vista Sculpture Project 02-1 Vista Sculpture Project 03-1 Vista Sculpture Project 04-1
Vista Sculpture Project 05-1 Vista Sculpture Project 06-1 Vista Sculpture Project 07-1
click thumbnail to view larger image. enlarge
John T. Unger