Monday, January 31, 2011

Silver Lake Mosaic (it almost rhymes!)

The Silver Lake home of artists David Edward Byrd and Jolino Beserra (Beserra is the mosaicist) is full of mosaics--so many, in fact, that the Los Angeles Times has an online photo spread of the place.  It was published about two weeks ago, and I missed it because I finally ended my subscription to the Times....sigh. It just wasn't getting read.

Anyway, the actual article link is here. I copied a pastiche photo (all pictures taken by R. Daniel Foster) showing details of several mosaics. The image on the left is, I believe, from the fireplace. The couple's portraits and birthdates are embedded somewhere in there, according the the Times.

All the mosaics use not just tile and glass, but ceramic figurines, thimbles, toys, bottles, marbles, bright rhinestone pins and jewelry, even coffee cup pieces, as you can see in the center mosaic. That one has an image of an LA street car just out of sight to the left of the ceramic spice jar--which belonged to Beserra's grandmother.

As for the third picture, it's from an outdoor shower. Of course.

According to Beserra's home page, the style is called "pique-assiette." There are plenty more pictures, both of his home and other installations, on the site. He's been written up in Sunset and other magazines, and I hope he doesn't mind that I borrowed this picture of him at work.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Playing Catchup....

...'s'all I seem to do lately. Anybody else feel the same way? Oh, well, it's better than being bored.

Here's a Patch article about the mosaic at Grand View Blvd. Elementary School. That's a picture of part of it at right, and I did blog about it on a Mosaic Monday post back in October of last year.

But the new article springs from an interview with the teacher, Tami Smith, who designed it and helped all the kids at the school design their tiles for it.

* * *

Also want to mention that I had coffee with a wonderful San Pedro blogger and historian who walked every street in San Pedro and wrote about it at "San Pedro Block-by-Block". She's also part of the Grand Vision group that supports the beautiful Warner Grand Theater.

A note: We are at the southern end of LA here and kinda far to make real connections with most Los Angeles bloggers. Or writers. If any writers in the harbor area want to meet, I think we should. It would be great to have a writers' community for mutual support, advice, and occasional whining.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Visionary Artware Producing Mosaics Today

Today's mosaic entry is a business, operating in Long Beach out of a bright gold bungalow with tons of flowers and art pieces in the front yard: Visionary Artware.

Visionary Artware offers classes in mosaic assembly and design, but mostly they produce mosaic pieces for homes. At left is an example of what they can to for furniture. That's a wardrobe! The doors are fitted out with mosaic tiles of bamboo.

The master craftsman and owner of Visionary Artware is Mina Barnes, who teaches the classes and (according to the reviews) has created a true community in her studio.

They have a Facebook page too, where you can print out a 10% off coupon before visiting...because Visionary Artware doesn't just build these exquisite mosaics on commission. They also sell vases, tables, wall hangings, and all sorts of smaller works in their boutique.

This second picture shows part of a back yard entertainment center, with mosaic benches and artwork framing the barbecue. After years of apartment/condo living, the thought of having a back yard is overwhelming--kind of like the idea of overdosing on Oreo cookie cheesecake. I can't even imagine it, but I can imagine going to a party in such a place.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

New Site for Millard Sheets Art Information

Tony Sheets, artist and son of Millard Sheets, has set up a new websitet centered on his father's work: 

Tony will use the site to gather information about artwork--mosaics, murals, etc.--of his father's. He'll keep it updated with the preservation work he's doing in conjunction with Chase Bank, for one thing. There will be announcements about artwork being moved and re-installed. For instance, news about the Rose Bowl Mural (a panel is pictured at left) removed from a Pasadena Bank and soon to be on display elsewhere.

Tony also hopes to gather information about former bank sites and buildings in and out of California with artwork by Millard Sheets Studios. Some of these buildings are vacant; some artwork is hidden or needs repair.

There's even a picture of the one mural in San Francisco that was painted over by Chase--an irreplaceable loss, but one that alerted everyone--including Chase Bank--that steps had to be taken to protect the art.

This picture, which I took at the Millard Sheets Fine Arts Gallery of the LA County Fair 3 or 4 years ago, is a painting done by Sheets. I've lost the my notes, but I think it's of Chavez Ravine, pre-Dodger Stadium. Someone please correct me if I'm wrong.

Monday, January 17, 2011

St. Monica's Mosaics

I hiked up to St. Monica's Catholic Church in Santa Monica (of course) because I'd seen pictures like the one at right. I assumed the golden backgrounds and robed figures were mosaics, much like those by Millard Sheets in the Precious Blood Catholic Church, Los Angeles.

Oops...they are murals. I had to get up verrrrry close to be sure. That does not detract from their beauty at all, but it almost left me without an entry for mosaic Monday...until I lowered my gaze to see what was right in front of me: Mosaics!

A plethora of mosaics!

Here's a baptismal font of mosaic panels, just to the right of the altar. Click on it for a larger view; it's gorgeous. I don't know if that's a marble inlay, or just a composite stone. While searching their website for information on the mosaics (I found none), I learned that St. Monica's has a clown ministry. Yes, a clown ministry, or as they put it, "a commited cadre of imaginative spirits" that shows to others "the love and joy of Jesus Christ - through the art of clowning."

I could never make that up. Go to their page.

To the right of that, mosaics decorate the little side altars. There might be other proper names for them; I don't know.

I love the little mother-of-pearl shamrocks that ornament the mostly-gold mosaic framing the side altar. At the corners are a palm design, and above the frame a fleur-de-lis, again in gold.

But wait, there's more! Above the fleur-de-lis, as you can just see on the far right, is another fancy border of crosses in circles, a design that looks very eastern--maybe Coptic. That design is cut off on the left through the fault of the photographer. Boo.

Even outside in the lobby...all right, I'll look it up. In the Narthex, there are a couple of saint statues that stand on plinths decorated with mosaics. Here's one, which may be St. Monica, mother of St. Augustine of Hippo. My only reason for the guess is that the church is named after St. Monica so we might expect her statue to be welcoming us. The image reminds me of statues I've seen of St. Rita, because she's holding roses.

I sure wish I'd moved that folding chair before taking this picture.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

San Pedro's Warner Grand Theater turns 80

Yup, the big eight-oh. The Warner Grand Theater on 6th Street in San Pedro first opened on January 21, 1931, so It will celebrate its b-day with a "Think Thirties" party on January 21, 2011.

A screening of Brothers Warner will kick off the event at 6 pm, followed by cocktails and appetizers with a 1930's flair. The newly-renovated mezzanine lobby will be unveiled, and a grand time will be had by all.

Tickets are $45 each, $80 a couple if bought in advance (either at the website or by phone, (310) 833-4813), or $50 at the door.

The Warner Grand Theater was designed by Pantages chain architect B. Marcus Priteca (interior by Anthony Heinsbergen) as the first sound-equipped theater in the South Bay. Since it was meant to host vaudeville performances as well as screen movies, it was built with an orchestra pit and basement-level dressing rooms. Presumably they're still there, since all websites seem to agree that this theater has not been changed much over the ensuing decades.

The Grand Vision Foundationexists to raise funds to preserve the theater, and the City of Los Angeles purchased it for $1.2 million in 1996. Now La Grand Dame plays host to all sorts of events: movie shoots, special events for local clubs and organizations, foreign and special-interest movie screenings, musicals, and talks by authors (Fr. Gregory Boyle is going to be there on January 30th).

Monday, January 10, 2011

A Mosaic Monday Pass

Straying out of Los Angeles County to say "Happy Anniversary" to Adam Arenson, whose blog on the Home Savings buildings is one year old today.

Adam's post today is on the La Mesa branch, completed in 1976. The picture at left comes from Allan Ferguson's Flicker stream, and shows the bank in 2007. Barbecues Galore has moved on, and the building is empty and available.

However...Adam's post does not feature this front mosaic of men on horseback (though he may speak about that next time.) Nope, if you follow the link you will see text and photos about Susan Hertel's whimsical whale mosaic that crowns a side entrance.

So go see it, and then look over previous posts about former Home Savings & Loan branches in Los Angels, San Diego, and Orange counties. Adam has some great photos, not just of mosaics but of murals, stained glass windows, and sculpture. He has even published a picture of a "Lost" Burbank branch mural that was boarded over, and presumably still exists, safe behind a boring white wall.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Norwalk Library Mosaic

Today's mosaic is actually a whole series of mosaics on view since 1969 at the Norwalk Public Library on Imperial. This first picture comes from the children's section of the library. There are actually 21 pictures on this disk:

The second picture is one of two mosaics that flank the main entrance to the library. Both show California history...actually, they show how perception has influenced history.

The mosaics are based on old maps, and as you can see on the first one, California was once believed to be an island. The sailing ship, fish, horses, and mission reflect our story up through the mid-19th century.  The other mosaic (below) reflects California's statehood days, with trains, planes, ships, oil fields, and a rocket.  Both are 10 feet high and almost 20 feet long. If you click, the larger picture shows much more detail.

The artist, Ben Mayer, came to Los Angeles in 1949 from Germany, via England, and he lived here for fifty years, till his death at the very end of 1999.

He had his own design firm, creating artwork for commercial buildings--big buildings, like theaters and casinos. His obituary in the Los Angeles Times says the successful business allowed him to pursue his hobbies--photography, hunting, water skiing and more, all over the world. (He spoke five languages.)

But his favorite hobby was astronomy, and eventually he turned over the design business to his son Quinn and blasted off...sorta.

Ben Mayer was the first person to photograph a nova from beginning to end (all 36 hours) and capture on color film all 108 of the Messier galactic objects. He globe-trotted to photograph 13 total eclipses as well, and he wrote  four books on astronomy. 
Not only that---he actually invented and patented astronomical devices that are widely used by scientists.

Geez Louise. I think I deserve a medal if I can post to my blog, walk the dog, and download some pictures all on the same day.  And I say that knowing I'm just getting this Mosaic Monday post in under the wire.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Fifty Years Ago: January 2, 1961

January 2nd of 1961 was a Monday. That evening, the US embassy in Cuba was ordered to cut its staff down to eleven by Fidel Castro, in a radio address. Just eleven. "The rest are nothing but spies," is what Castro said in the AP story, and he gave them 48 hours to leave.

Premier Krushchev of the USSR voiced alarm over the report that the US was about to invade Cuba. To put this in context, the Bay of Pigs invasion lay four months in the future, but secret training and plans had begun many months before, in summer of 1960. The United Nations was set to discuss Cuba's charge of a planned invasion that week, in early 1961.

In other headlines, the President (Eisenhower) (John F. Kennedy had been elected the previous November but had not been sworn in yet), the Secretary of State, and top military advisers were meeting over a reported Communist invasion in Laos. Whether the invaders were from Red China or Communist North Vietnam was not known. And although this isn't in the newspapers of the day, the US--through Thailand--delivered American-made aircraft to the ruling government of Laos the next day. Civil War in Laos had started seven years before and would last till 1975.

So much for the good old days. All in all, I think the world in general is better off fifty years later.

Of course, the real news was the Rose Bowl Game. Not that the Huskies from Washington were triumphant in the Rose Bowl for the second straight year, beating Minnesota 17-7. (The headline on page 2 on page two of the Los Angeles Times was "Gay Rose Tourney Thrills Throngs.")

No, the real story for non-jocks is that hoax of the century was perpetrated at the game. You can read all the details at Hoaxipedia, but in brief, some Caltech students (the fiendish fourteen) snuck into the hotel where the University of Washington cheerleaders were bivouacked. They knew, already, that as part of the half-time show, a grand card-flipping extravaganza was planned, so that 15 separate images would be flashed by the audience and seen all over the nation, thanks to TV. So they stole the instructions for the card flipping and sabotaged them. You can see the result in this picture

The Times mentioned the prank briefly, assuming that Caltech students had bought out the seat section reserved for U of WA. (that's not what happened.)  The truth came out a few weeks later in a Caltech magazine.  Go to Hoaxipedia for the full story. It'll bring tears to your eyes.