Sherry Mills-Holt talks to Barbara Dybala about the mosaic wonderworld she’s creating in Texas.
BY SHERRY MILLS-HOLT
Barbara Dybala developed a fascination with unique roadside attractions and meeting the individuals behind these wonderments. Soon after, her head was turned by highly-focused mosaic artists who gave her the strength and determination to pursue a quest for mosaic nirvana.
Her original influences were Karen Ami, who founded the Chicago Mosaic School; Freidensrich Hundertwasser for his efforts towards life in harmony with nature; Ilana Shafir with the freedom and complication of her spontaneous mosaics; and Chicago’s Isaiah Zagar and his intense simplistic style, speed and disregard for the building ownership he chose to mosaic.
Barbara’s brain was brewing in a new life direction. So now you know what causes someone to sell their home, auction off all their furniture, and reinvent a home environment consisting of mosaic surroundings and years of projects. You might ask: what husband would be okay with this?
Meet Barbara and David Dybala of Hidden Mosaic in the rural part of Rockwall, Texas, outside of Dallas. Originally untamed Texas land, Hidden Mosaic constantly morphs with the construction of square or rectangular buildings, which are then adorned with mosaics. Barbara’s philosophy is: “The subject of all mosaic is living in nature.” Hidden Mosaic is a never-ending ongoing singular mosaic show. The largest building contains the studio with private living space upstairs. You can relax and watch nature in the pond house or at the covered dock by the water.
For Barbara, Hidden Mosaic exists to inspire people to create a unique environment that fits their own lifestyles. “Let yourself be free; don’t focus on other people’s opinions,” she says. Every morning she awakes with a mental focus on the day’s mosaic task. It may be designing, estimating, purchasing, organizing, communicating or – if lucky – putting a mosaic tile on the wall.
Barbara believes that if you create from the heart, the work has the right to exist. As much as she loves giving life to her creations, she seems to thrive and find equal joy in teaching and providing support and encouragement to others.
Everyone asks her: “What tiles and glues do you use and how long did it take?” The weather can freeze in Texas, so all the material she works with are free-thaw proof. The main products are Daltile porcelain, Natural Hues, as well as mirrors strips that have been moisture proof. When you least expect it, porcelain china is used to enhance the viewers’ imagination. Exterior glues consist of thinset (concrete mortar) and Lexel, a non-yellowing, clear commercial sealant. How long does it take her? Hidden Mosaic will take her whole life.
Creating custom mosaics for residential, commercial and municipalities is the financial mainstay for Hidden Mosaic, but on Friday mornings and Thursday evenings, Barbara’s Contemplative Mosaic Classes are filled and have been taking place for several years.
A former adjunct professor in design at the University of North Texas, Barbara helps the students see, dissect and interpret images. In the words of a student: “You will never be able to look at a carpeted hotel hallway, a sunset, or a plate of food in the same way. Barbara doesn’t see ‘things’; she sees shapes, patterns, spaces and colors. And not just ‘colors’, but tones, values, complements and contrasts.”
Barbara is a generous but demanding teacher. Her students love her support and assistance, but they’re aware that she can make you cry with her “tell-it-like-it-is” critiques based on design principles and the demand for technical execution when you hear the words, “take all this off”. Barbara Dybala has proven that mosaics are an elevated and spiritual way of visual and intellectual communication. Her students and fans bow down to her.
Hidden Mosaic is open for touring on Mother’s Day (Sunday, 8 May, in the US) and for dedications of new mosaic areas. The Contemplative Mosaic students will also be showing their latest mosaics.
About Barbara and David Dybala
Barbara and David enjoy working together. They’ve subcontracted the building of their homes. For Hidden Mosaic, their go-to-contractor is Mark Peizor from Poland. Mark understands Barbara’s thinking and has brought all the buildings to life. David, her husband of 52 years, is a certified public accountant who loves paperwork, but has never touched a mosaic except for delivery and installation. But David loves to talk about the mosaics and Barbara enjoys listening to him.
About Sherry Mills-Holt
Sherry is an award-winning writer; mixed media, assemblage, and mosaic artist; and retired filmmaker, based in Dallas, Texas. Her Newt, the Aqua Cat was recently part of the Gallery of Contemporary Mosaic Art’s Breaking Ground show in Chicago.