The SFO mural installation is rapidly nearing completion! I have some wonderful photos of the process, thanks to John Janca of Artbot Photography.
Last week, the Mosaika team finished adhering the mosaic to the wall, a very methodical process. The various sections were marked with a grid before the mosaic was packed for shipping, which they match with a chalk line grid marked on the wall to ensure each section is installed in the correct location. They constantly check, measure and recheck their measurements; if the placement is off just a bit, the error is amplified over the width of the piece.
We also began grout testing last week, which has proven to be one of the more unusual and challenging aspects of the piece. We are using six colors in order to exaggerate the illusion of spatial depth in the image. Some shapes are meant to be in the background, while others should appear as if they are floating in the foreground. We have narrowed the grout palette to orange, green, white, "biscuit" (cream), light grey and dark grey.
Last week, Saskia, one of the owners of Mosaika, was in San Francisco. Over dinner one night, she told me that she wished that I was not watching the installation process. That, instead, I would see only the finished mural, perfectly installed. I understand what she means. During the process, the mural is covered with plastic, written notations, smudges of mortar, blue painter's tape and a lot of dust. The grout lines show as dark outlines, accentuating the contours of each individual tile, resulting in a very fragmented image. The whole mosaic is rough, raw and unfinished.
I understand Saskia's concerns, as it's how I feel when people see unfinished work in my studio. I understood further when the grouting began, as the grout absolutely transforms the piece. Individual tiles fall into place within forms. The foreground and background come into focus. Everything smooths out, yet the surface is slightly faceted. The shapes and colors assert themselves as I intended.
Creating a ceramic mosaic at this scale is such an enormous undertaking, and it requires an act of faith. Luckily, I am in good hands with Mosaika. Their expertise is astonishing.
I am so grateful for the opportunity to watch the installation process, and I'm fairly certain that, after five years, seeing the finished piece will be a hugely impactful experience for me.