Famous american mosaic artist John Sollinger is the main person in our journal this month

Country – USA

City – Ashland

American mosaic artist John Sollinger is well known for his unusual mosaic works, partly similar in style to the technique of stained glass or fusing, but still this is just a guess. In fact, the artist uses his individual technique for laying tesseraes.

His methods are unusual and unnerving. He use a technique of his own design where all bits of glass are laid in place before being adhered to a substrate. John call it the fluid double reverse method, because the tesserae are able to move until adhesive sets after the second flip back to the original mosaic surface.

For he and his students it raises suspense and uncertainty, but the results that come from heightened alterability that fosters trial and error or success and allowance for spontaneity over conventional methods, including other forms of the double reverse. Also, the framing is unique: the mosaic is adhered to a larger sheet of stained glass that serves as frame as well as substrate.

John Sollinger was born in 1954 in Dearborn (near Detroit), Michigan. The first 18 years he spent in the suburbs of Detroit, which by then was Dearborn. There was very little nature in this place.

Dearborn City, Wayne County, Southeast Michigan, USA. is currently a suburb of Detroit. The city lies on the river Rouge. This is the birthplace of Henry Ford, it is the headquarters of the research, development and production of the Ford Motor Company.

The town settled in 1795 as a stagecoach stop (called Ten Eyck and then Bucklin) on the Sauk Trail between Detroit and Chicago. A settlement, known as Pekin, developed there and was laid out in 1833 as Dearbornville (named for American Revolutionary War hero Gen. Henry Dearborn), which was incorporated as the village of Dearborn in 1893.

Industrial development of the city began with the launch of the Ford Motor Company Rouge assembly plant in 1917 and continued with the further development of the automotive industry. The city of Fordson, adjacent to the plant, was merged with Dearborn in 1928

Dearborn currently houses Ford Motor Headquarters. So the childhood and youth of John Sullinger passed in an industrial setting. We managed to communicate with nature during visits to my maternal grandfather and grandmother. They lived in a sparsely populated area of northern Michigan (the upper peninsula), and it was there, in the forests of northern Michigan, that John knew the secrets of unity with nature.

John’s childhood memories clearly set aside when his mother took drawing lessons and returned home with a portrait of Santa Claus. Both of his grandmothers were handy with crafts of all sorts, including wall hangings made from painted LP record albums that were adorned with pine cones to plant seed mosaics of roosters cut with a jigsaw by his grandfather.

In childhood his hobbies included reading comic books and exploring the natural world around me. John was really disappointed when the US made its first moon landing; He had imagined that the Earth and the Mooon had been to other galaxies, due to his reading.

He liked to feed spiders have sometimes have them fight each other. John found the social insects, such as honey bees and ants, to be particularly interesting to watch, especially when their nurseries were disturbed. He raised mice and hamsters as pets. In high school he also raised rats to study their aggressive behaviors to non-clan rats.

Walking or sitting quietly in a wooded area, watching the wildlife and taking in the fragrance of needles and organic detritus on the forest floor filled him with wonder and awe of the natural world. Artwise, John liked to use crayons in coloring books and later art activities during art sessions.

Mosaic Review asked a few questions to the artist, to which he kindly sent his responses.

Mosaic Review – What contributed to your craving for art in general and mosaic in particular?

John Sollinger – Craving artistic expression permeated my undertakings in subtle ways, such as decorating Christmas cookies with Grandma Sollinger and decorating the cover of a make-believe travel journal across the globe.

I felt honored in the first grade for being chosen as one of two students to decorate the classroom board. I knew the answer when the art teacher asked the class whether we turn the paper or the scissors when required. I loved to draw into sheets of copper. In middle and high school, I did not take art classes but did help my best friend pass his art class by sketching some rapid landscapes that his teacher accused him of tracing from magazines. It helped my craving to know that I had talent.

In my first year at the University of Michigan, I dreamed of becoming the great American novelist and planned to write a sequel to The Brothers Karamazov, by Dostoyevsky; Ivan, the youngest son of a terrible father, would migrate to the US.

However, that is as close as I came to even consider pursuing art. I did not want to be the starving artist. My passion for nature lead to a study of behavioral, ecological and then molecular biology before eventual employment as a professor of biology in a region of the western US that is still relatively pristine.

Discovering glass mosaics began when I saw glass mosaics for sale in a street art festival in Minneapolis, Minnesota. I had just taken a stained glass window workshop and thought that I could do that with the scrap glass. Several years later I took a mosaic class and have never looked back.

 Mosaic Review – Did you study at an art school, did you take lessons from mosaic artists?

 John Sollinger – I took a painting class in my mid-twenties while working towards a Masters degree in forest ecology with emphasis in fire ecology. I refused to paint the rubbish that the instructor put onto a table and then adding no instruction but commanding “paint.” I refused and did my own thing, which earned me the title of “madman” from the instructor. Although that was the only feedback I received, I interpreted that as a good sign, since Vincent was mad. I must have known that because I used to visit an art museum in Detroit with my friend, Suzanne, during my freshman year at the University.

Mosaic Review – Biology versus mosaic or complement each other?

John Sollinger – That science and art are distinct world views with no overlap or border crossings is something of which I was never convinced. For quality both require clear observational skills, creativity and critical thinking. Nature, as viewed through the lens of science, serves to increase my visual acuity and awareness of patterns, interactions and meaning. This, in turn, feeds my emotional attachment to nature and its degradation in our modern age. Having a passion for environmental biology gives me something worthwhile to express, such as my alarm regarding increased snowmelt and fire intensity that accompany rising temperatures.


Mosaic Review – Why mosaic, and not painting or something else?

John Sollinger – Of primary importance to me, mosaicking requires touch; it feels natural to manipulate glass tesserae in my palm and between fingers. Also, relative to painting, mosaics offer a greater challenge for depicting realism, and I want to be challenged.

Mosaicking is far less commonly practiced and, therefore, with respect to recognition and rewards, it is easier to be a big fish in a little pond. Finally, because I am frugal, I had scraps of glass left over from a stained glass window, and, having seen a glass mosaic at a street art festival in Minneapolis, Minnesota, I knew that I could use them to make my own mosaic. I have dabbled in acrylic painting and tile-making but never overtly pursued art but did employ art in everyday activities, like arranging plants in a garden or sketching mutant plants in the laboratory.

Mosaic Review – Native places where you lived your childhood, are it was your basic inspiration?

John Sollinger – Before tract housing replaced fragments of forested areas in my home city, I liked to spend my time running and biking in the remnants of once-extensive stands of hardwoods, like maples and oaks. My maternal grandparents lived in the northern peninsula of Michigan, where I enjoyed playing in less disturbed and more extensive boreal forests of mixed hardwoods and conifers.

Mosaic Review – How do you perceive the mosaic, like fine art? What is its feature and originality?

John Sollinger – Fine art can be made with any material by any method, in any fashion or for any purpose – and not just paint on canvas with no functionality but to adorn a wall. Not all art is fine, and some mosaics are more craft than art. The advantage that mosaics have over other fine arts are both practical and sensational – durability and actual texture.

Mosaic Review – What the trends can you name in contemporary mosaic?

John Sollinger – Two trends that I perceive happening are the mixing of tesserae with paint as well as and an increased production and appreciation of realistic renderings. The degree of realism achieved by some, like Atsuko Lasaris and Mia Tavonatti, negates perceived limitations on the ability of the artist to create illusions of 3D using discrete bits, pointillistically or otherwise.

Mosaic Review – Could you name your favorite mosaics that you have made?

John Sollinger – Snowfell is my favorite, followed by Radiance and Of Eden. All of them take me to moments and places in nature that inspire me to mimic my visual and emotional impressions.

Of Eden
Of Eden

Mosaic Review – What is the impetus for creating mosaics for you. Idea, mood, philosophy something else?

John Sollinger – It starts with a visually appealing scene or compilation of elements from nature. I weave ideas into the original idea, taking into account my personal experience and that what I have learned of the greater world. I mosaic only when I am excited about it. I have the luxury of not having to sell my works or have them done by someone else’s deadline to a certain specification, as is the situation in commissions. I have a deep, underlying urge to create, and mosaicking satisfies my urge to make something unique, long-lasting and worth viewing.

Mosaic Review – Do you have a dream that still has not come true?

John Sollinger – Relating to art or to something else. I wish to have one of my mosaics in the permanent collection of the Tate in London or Louvre Museum in Paris. Also, I would like to fly like superman. )))

Mosaic Review – What else would you like to do in mosaic?

John Sollinger – I would like the honor of juroring more mosaic exhibitions, exhibiting solo in a significant venue and offering workshops in my studio.

Mosaic Review – America and mosaic – can you say something about it?

John Sollinger – In as much as our modes and means of expression follow our particular customs, the typical American mosaicist is self-taught or taught fragmentally by practicing mosaicists. We do not have ancient Roman mosaic floors and walls of stone or Byzantine glass mosaics of historically important figures in Christianity or governance.

We frequently associate mosaics with patio table tops, birdbaths, flower pots and mirrors made in China or by a local hobbyist. This may be changing, with an upswing in the number of mosaic schools and institutes as well as business and private studios that are offering instruction in traditional and contemporary mosaic techniques. The Society of American Mosaic Artists (SAMA) and Contemporary Mosaic Artists (CMA) are organizations that foster the growth and appreciation of mosaic art in the US and beyond.

Mosaic Review – Who or what is your main support in life and in creativity?

John Sollinger – A muse of the forest sings to my heart and calls me to render patterns in nature and comment on environmental issues. My friends and family encourage me to follow my passion, and my wife blesses me in this journey.

John Sollinger

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