I met with mosaic artist, Gary Drostle yesterday to talk about helping out on this amazing, 50 foot mosaic project he is doing for the University of Iowa and as we were chatting I mentioned one of his public mosaics – one that, in my mind, is iconic. I say this because whenever I am talking mosaics to a friend who has never come across the contemporary mosaic art movement, I show them a picture of Gary’s Fishpond mosaic and always, always the reaction is a chin dropping “wow!”
Now it’s your turn….here it is.
Well, yesterday I was stunned when Gary told me that the local council where the Fishpond was located demolished the mosaic 2 years ago. My chin dropped and my mouth hung open for about a minute as Gary explained that they would not fund a small repair job and then the small repair job became a big repair job and their solution was to get rid of it instead of paying to have it repaired. Honestly, I can think of a whole bunch of us who would have repaired it for free in order to preserve this thing of beauty.
As I reflected on this sad story, the obvious things went through my mind – the lack of value given to artists and their role in society in not just making public art but maintaining it (shucks, I bet the council pays for its vehicle fleet to be serviced rather than letting them run into disrepair and then just chucking them away).
But more than that, it grieves me that this decision conveys such a cavalier attitude to beauty. As an artists, one of my motivations is to beautify.We put our hearts, our selves into this process. How can something so beautiful, so iconic, just be trashed by decision makers? Can you imagine a similar attitude to public art in Venice or Rome? I recently read that archaeological discoveries show that cave men / women had the instinct to beautify their environment and the artifacts of daily life – which confirms my hunch that beauty is an innate need and drive in us humans not an optional extra on the budget of public life.