Over the course of 2014-15 I was engaged by Fort Worth Public Art to act as Norie Sato’s assistant for the final installation of her series of public artworks for the new Chisholm Trail Parkway in Fort Worth. Details about that project are discussed in a different post; here I aim to document my research visit to the Franz Mayer of Munich studios that fabricated the mosaic that we installed along the parkway.
This trip started when the North American representative for the studio visited Fort Worth with Sato as the installation of the project kicked off in the summer of 2014. Erica Behrens was so instantly generous upon meeting me; handing me Mayer’s new hardbound publication of history and projects which she signed “See you in Munich!” Later in the fall of 2014, I visited New York for the first time, where Erica took me on a tour of subway stations where Franz Mayer had produced mosaic works for the MTA. As the prospect of me traveling to Munich to visit the studios kept gathering momentum, it wasn’t much longer before I seized the opportunity.
The Mayer studio is a slender 5 story complex in a dense area near Munich’s city center. The floors are divided into the variety of glass media that is produced there. The studio translates the work of artists into painted commercial float glass, printing techniques, traditional stained glass, and glass and stone mosaic. Also housed here are offices and a library, and the top floor has two small and sleek apartments where visiting artists stay during their collaborations with the studio. Although I was not visiting with a official commission, the studio identified an opening in their artist schedule to fit me in for a four night stay.
During my visit, the studio was in progress fabricating the series of mosaics Vik Muniz produced for the MTA’s new 2nd Avenue Subway at 72nd Street. Titled “Perfect Strangers,” dozens of everyday New Yorkers were photographed for the project, whose likenesses were then reproduced near to lifesize. As a figurative artist myself, this turned out to be perfect timing to study the artisan’s methods of cutting and forming the tesserae, along with how they manipulated the color variations of the glass, in these stunning portraits.
During my stay, I hardly left the studios, only taking one day to visit a market and a couple of museums before departing for Edinburgh for the second leg of my travels. During my outing I stopped at a private residence under major renovation, where the Mayer group was finishing an installation of a below-ground swimming pool finished completely in mosaic glass. Though brief, my visit allowed me to learn introductory techniques in working with mosaic and the guiding principles behind the studio’s mosaic design and production. I have since been able to gain some proficiency with the medium, though so far on a small scale. My dream is to find the commission that allows me to travel back to Munich to partner with Franz Mayer for a large-scale project of my own creation.