News & Updates

Long overdue recap of my “El Arbol” mosaic mural installation at the new Municipal Courthouse in Goergetown, TX.

Finished mosaic mural "El Arbol" by J. Muzacz at Georgetown Municipal Courthouse, 2019.

Finished mosaic mural “El Arbol” by J. Muzacz at Georgetown Municipal Courthouse, 2019.

Awarded the public art commission for the feature wall in the new municipal courthouse for my pixelated glass tile mosaic concept I was astonished, ecstatic, and also completely daunted by the work that now lied ahead. It took me 2-3 weeks just to figure out a system of translating a photo image into little squares of color, that en mass would still read as the image, albeit slightly blurred, or more aptly “Impressionistic.” I had to count pixels for days to order the right colors of glass, with over 150 different colors and varieties including iridescent sheen and irregular studio glass.

Color coding all the individual pixels and planning some epic glass tile orders from around the country.

Color coding all the individual pixels and planning wholesale glass tile orders from around the country.

 

Getting organized with over 150 colors and varieties of 3/4in. glass tile

Getting organized with over 150 colors and varieties of 3/4in. glass tile

 

Even still, ordering $2000 worth of glass and supplies, this was all an elaborate conceptual theory, ideas in my head and pixels on a screen, that would then have to be systematically and laboriously fabricated by hand in order to offer the final artwork a painterly touch.  And, there was no way for me to know if it would actually work or not, until 6 weeks later when it was almost complete.

Sitting at my dinner table on Christmas, and New Year’s with the help of my patient and accommodating wife Yuki, her friend Haruka visiting from Japan, and my mom visiting from Hawaii, all taking time out of their vacations to help me finish on time. My apprentice Adrian also laid as much tile as he could stand, but it is extremely tedious work, exhausting on the eyes, to stare at pixelated abstractions all day and try your best to match up the glass from a table covered in a buffet of candy-colored chiclets.

Completed panels laid out in order

Completed panels laid out in order, checking for edits

 

Colors getting mixed up

Colors getting mixed up at the end of a workday

 

Carefully placing each tile, and stacking up more than 200 square foot panels taking over the living room, I simply had to respect the process, and trust that on a large scale, when it all came together, it would work.

With just a few panels left, I had to know if the image would be good enough. If the tree was visible, with enough contrast, if the lake looked like a lake or just some angular blobs of blue. And the subtlety of the off whites and pink colors in the clouds, giving just enough depth to the sky, or the fiery fields in the foreground, blowing in the wind or just blown out of proportion.

Laid out in my front yard like a madman, behind tape and roughly assembled together, I walked up the steps to the second floor veranda to look down at the last two months of work. I almost couldn’t bring myself to look, but I knew I had to, and was hopeful, yet feared the worst. Looking down on the amalgamated mess of 50,000 pieces of glass taped together covering my front yard, I could see the tree, and the depth of field fading gently back to the opposite end of the lake, and the clouds were just varied enough to work. I don’t think I had ever sighed as deep a relief as I did right then.

Laying out the panels in the front yard

Laying out the panels in the front yard

Little did I know that the fun was just beginning…

Enlisting the help of two local artist friends Carmen and Mason, we set out to install the 228 prefabricated panels onto the wall, permanently, an integrated artwork that should last the life of the building itself. Of course, as with any construction project, lines aren’t always straight, and measurements aren’t exact. Even after going back and forth through countless emails and visits to the site with the architect and building manager, the wall was not perfectly flat, and we would not know if the tiles lined up exactly until we started setting them in place. With mosaic, you get one shot. Otherwise things start to get very, very messy.

Carmen and Mason lining up the first row of panels

Carmen and Mason lining up the first row of panels

Using a scissor lift to reach the top

Using a scissor lift to reach the top

After a marathon day of going up and down a scissor lift with fragile glass and buckets of thin set mortar, tape everywhere and exhausted from the repetitive, tedious, time-sensitive and completely nerve racking process, we had all 228 panels up on the wall. Of course there was some tweaking to do, filling in a section on the bottom right where the wall obviously got wider, because of course our installation work was perfect. Although, I still had to wait to view the mural in all it’s glory because the mortar had to set for 72 hours before I could take the tape off the face of the tiles. Let me tell you, that was a good night’s rest.

Going back for round two, we had to remove the tape, with amazingly, every single tile set in place. We used a little too much mortar in a few spots, which I’ll get to later, but now it was time to grout. Another marathon day, 14 hours of essentially mixing concrete, slapping it up, pushing it in, wiping it off, and polishing, never-ending polishing, and repeat. It is my favorite step in the process as it locks in all the tile, seals the gaps, and makes the project feel complete. But it’s definitely a strenuous workout covering almost 300 vertical square feet with 100 pounds of grout. Driving back home from Georgetown at midnight, we all had another really good night’s sleep.

Racing the clock to wipe off excess grout before it dries

Racing the clock to wipe off excess grout before it dries

Polishing off the last of the grout haze

Polishing off the last of the grout haze and chipping away at imperfections

Coming back on my own to seal the finished product, I noticed a few spots where the thin set mortar had been too thick and was sticking through the grout. Another 12 hours after carefully scraping out these bits by hand in order to not chip the fragile glass, and whittling my fingernails down to the nubs, I could go back over the inconsistencies with grout enamel to match the color. Only after all that touch up work was complete could I wax on and wax off the 15-year sealant and really call the project finished.

The leap of faith that is required of artists to pursue exciting new media is both bold and stubborn. I liken it to space exploration or some kind of scientific research where the experiment or process consists of some known constants, but the outcome and result is ultimately unknown. And if you can create a new method or a surprising heretofore unseen product, there are sure to be enlightening moments along the way that build on one’s depth and breadth as an artist. After 15 years, I have come to appreciate the struggle for innovation and the pursuit of perfecting one’s craft in the hopes of making monumental and impactful timeless artwork.

 

J. Muzacz with wife Yuki Takata and friends Dana and Todd Wright in front of El Arbol.

J. Muzacz with wife Yuki Takata and friends Dana and Todd Wright in front of El Arbol.

At the opening ceremony of the building and the official public unveiling, I was honored and humbled to see so many friendly faces there in attendance. Friends and family who have supported my artistic journey over the years in so many ways, and still cheer me on no matter how crazy my ideas are.

It was cathartic to get this groundbreaking project out in the world, and has set me on a trajectory to produce larger, more integrated glass and mosaic public artworks, both interior and exterior, for a seemingly endless variety of spaces. I am extremely excited at the possibilities and eager for what challenges lie ahead.

Andy Sharp photography, for the Wilco Sun Georgetown Newspaper, taken of the Artist J. Muzacz in front of his "El Arbol" glass mosaic mural at the opening ceremony, in the lobby of the new municipal courthouse.

Andy Sharp photography, for the Wilco Sun Georgetown Newspaper, taken of the Artist J. Muzacz in front of his “El Arbol” glass mosaic mural at the opening ceremony, in the lobby of the new municipal courthouse.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Angle of "El Arbol" showing part of Kevin Greer's artistic contribution to the lobby of the new courthouse.

Angle of “El Arbol” showing the iridescent shine, as well as part of Kevin Greer’s artistic contribution over the transaction windows in the lobby of the new courthouse.

 

Chet of the Daytripper TV show interviewing a city worker in front of El Arbol.

Chet of the Daytripper TV show interviewing a city worker in front of El Arbol.

 

jmuzacz.com | @jmuzacz

Copyright (c) J. Muzacz 2019. All Rights Reserved.

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