What Lee Krasner’s Mosaic Tables and Jackson Pollock’s rejected mosaic have in common

Lee Krasner’s mosaic table that continues to inspire me, and has influenced much of my mosaic work

There is a delightful mosaic scene in the biopic “Pollock” (2000), starring Ed Harris as the painter, and Marcia Gay Harnden (who received an Oscar for this role) playing his wife Lee Krasner. At just over an hour and 4 minutes, Krasner is seen creating a mosaic table. Four minutes later it resurfaces, only just visible if you watch carefully, in a poker scene, holding beer bottles at Jackson and Lee’s house one evening. Again at 1.21 minutes, with some coffee table books and coffee cups while Jackson’s family is visiting following his success being featured in Life Magazine.

It’s inconsequential to the movie and you’ll miss it if you’re not into mosaics, as I did the first time, watching it two years prior to starting out in mosaic art. I retraced and re-watched it only years later, when I became curious about the source of the mosaic in the photo by this article, which I had enlarged and printed on real photo paper and stuck on my computer screen, to inspire myself to “one day be a real mosaicist” (a goal I’m still working towards!). I had found it on the internet and did not know who it was from.

The reason I had picked this mosaic to be my inspiration was the deceptively randomness and simplicity of the design, the use of a wide variety of materials, the playful rhythm and vibrant colours. But most of all: how looking at it made me feel happy, carefree and alive. I knew one day I wanted to make mosaics like this.

I had no idea I was punching above my weight. Lee Krasner is the sole woman artist mentioned as part of the first generation of Abstract Expressionists, who exhibited alongside Picasso, Matisse, de Kooning and Pollock himself. But once I found out it was her who created my mosaic muse, it gave me a wonderful inner validation of the mosaic style I aspired to.

It turns out this table was one of two low, round mosaic tables Lee Krasner (who was predominantly a painter) made around 1947 or 1948, using pieces of her own jewellery, everyday objects such as keys and coins, as well as tiles and bottle glass. According to other sources, Jackson Pollock gave Lee all his leftover material and encouraged her to do her own mosaic after he created his only mosaic for the Work Progress Association (which was rejected).

The story goes that Jackson Pollock helped her pour the concrete and attach the wagon wheel rim to the legs. But she laid the mosaic pattern.
“It’s a landmark work in terms of decorative arts and has been reproduced in many contexts and published widely,” says Hallie Harrisburg of Michael Rosenfield Gallery, interviewed by “Mosaic of Art”.

According to Harrisburg, the mosaic table was a foreshadowing of Krasner using the abstract form as her own language in her paintings later on.

One of the tables was sold, but my favourite stayed in Lee Krasner’s possession her entire life.

Sitara Morgenster 17 February 2018

Sources:
– Mosaic of Art, retrieved from https://archive.org/details/GeorgeFishmanHALLIEHARRISBURG_onLeeKrasnerMosaic in December 2017)
– Artfortune, retrieved from http://www.artfortune.com/lee-lenore-krasner/artistbiographies-116718 in February 2018

This blog was also published as an article in the February 2018 issue of “Opus Oracle”, the members-only magazine of MAANZ (Mosaic Association of Australia and New Zealand)

Video-blog of work-in-progress

On my Mosaics.Gallery blog this month a mosaic art-vlog instead of writing, taking you up-close and personal to a commission I’m working on: “By the Pool” (destined for a poolside in Auckland, New Zealand), showing off this work-in-progress in (so far) two super short films. The first video shows base and pillar still relatively naked. You can see the plant pots (plastic and terracotta) and plumbers pipe forming the skeleton of this mosaic garden sculpture. In part two, the base is covered (later to be grouted) and the leaves and tulips applied to the pillar-part of the installation. A sphere will be topping off this creation (the original sketch on which the design was based is the thumbnail of the first video). I will post detailed info about how the structure was built after completion of the piece. The glue I’m using is roof-and-gutter silicon.

I have the perfect necklace for you

Paraparaumu Beach Market, Saturday 14 October 2017

I watch the patrons strolling up and down the Paraparaumu Beach Market on a chilly spring Saturday morning. Tourists, locals, visitors from nearby towns, with or without dogs, partners, children; throngs of people moving past my stall, toward my stall, away from my stall. Most of them are after vegetables, seedlings and food. Maybe also a take-away coffee but definitely lots of “hi-how-are-yous” and chats. I want to yell out to them: “I have the perfect necklace for you!” What’s holding me back is that New Zealand stallholders don’t seem to operate that way. It’s more the way of Dutch herring sellers at markets such as the Albert Cuyp.

Paraparaumu Beach Market patrons are appreciative enough of the arts and crafts available, but alas, while these are much and often vocally admired, they are not as frequently purchased as I would like. There’s a few of us selling “wants” rather than “needs”, luxuries superfluous to basic daily needs, but oh so yummy to possess and flaunt.

My pretty pendants, made of broken ceramics in myriad colours, set in cement glue and grout, are well presented on a pick-nick table covered in a black velvet cloth. But wearable mosaic art is not on anyone’s shopping list and perhaps it’s also not close to Xmas enough yet. In my mind, I festoon especially the lady-market-goers with my pendants.

I spy on them. I stalk them – ever so discretely – with my eyes. Some of them are distracted by a string of grandchildren in their wake, others have difficulty pushing their walker over the gnarly pebbled path past my stall. Or they were early and with their arms already chockful with produce keen to return to their car as soon as they can.

Stalking potential buyers with my eyes

A lot of them don’t wear anything around their necks today. I generally can’t tell if this was caused by lack of motivation or time. Some look hastily clad (the “I’m-only-going-out-briefly”-style). Others have made the most of this see-and-be-seen opportunity and even wear bright coloured shoes matching their lipsticks. You can also assess meteorological skills, with the number of clothing layers reflecting the market goer’s abilities to predict the weather.

Making while selling

Some have obviously underestimated the chill factor (it would have looked so much more inviting from a closed bedroom window than it actually is) and walk past shivering. Others left the house well prepared and donned scarves, hats and puffer jackets. I scan personalities, dress styles and colours to find a match with my best wares.

I rely on first impressions rather than thorough interpretation. Sometimes it takes just one look at a woman to know that she isn’t the type to buy herself something nice and frivolous. Frugality or low self-esteem, let’s not try and analyse to find the cause. The consequence is obvious: the likelihood she’ll buy something pretty for another is dramatically reduced by this mindset. But look, that lady, over there, she’s definitely into blues and turquoise greens and is already wearing pretty earrings. A mosaic necklace would enhance what’s already there, without a doubt! I scan my table for a matching pendant and choose one for her. In my head.

Ah, black-and-white ensembles, they go well with the mirrored pendants or the broken bits of Crown Lynn. Even though I can see that I could do with more purples, reds and yellows in my repertoire, I have the perfect necklace for each and every one of these passers-by, complementing their personality and outfit. As if they were made uniquely for them. Sometimes I even adorn the males. It’s just a trend waiting to catch on. I know it! Males or females, young or old, I visualise them all wearing one, the zinc/alloy backing touching their skin.

If only they knew! They’d immediately rush over to my stall and part with their cash. But most of them will never know. Unless of course they read this blog.

Sitara Morgenster October 2017