Unsettled Pieces exhibition opens, featuring work by three mosaicists

Reading Time: 6 minutes

Pictured above: The Long View (2020-2023) by Anabella Wewer. W: 40″ x H 30″. Photo by Ryan Hulvat.

Unsettled Pieces, an exhibition of mosaic artwork featuring artists Debora Aldo, Nikki Sullivan and Anabella Wewer, opened at the Art Complex Museum in Duxbury, Massachusetts, on 20 August and runs until 5 November 2023.

This exhibition is a collection of contemporary mosaics centred around the themes of our evolving planet and the changes in our environment. The three artists have chosen mosaic as the common language to explore issues affecting the planet, each in her own style.

Debora Aldo uses her signature material, pebbles, along with up-cycled contemporary materials, to infuse her lines with meaning. Nikki Sullivan and Anabella Wewer both use classical techniques to form their lines, but Nikki often uses large found object as her focal point, while Anabella breaks down uncommon materials into regularly sized tesserae to tell her stories.  

Each artist has embraced one or more topics within our changing world, and brought to it the unusual and uncommon set of skills that it takes to create a mosaic; the whole is a look at both the evolution of the art form and the effects of humans on the evolution of the planet.

Our planet’s geology and ecosystems were formed over millennia. Ice ages followed warming periods. Big and small changes took hundreds of years to take place, giving the species time to adapt, to evolve. The effects now taking place are happening much faster, occurring in decades as opposed to centuries. More has happened in the last 50 years than in hundreds of centuries prior.

It can be argued that mosaic art is also undergoing a similar evolution. For millennia, mosaics were made from pebbles, stone and smalti. For the most part, they followed a set of principles related to the lines tesserae formed called andamento. In Europe and the Middle East, the tradition remained largely unchanged for centuries, but in the last few decades, the art form has changed rapidly, especially in the Americas. Making lines and forming shapes is a slow process, and cutting and fitting materials to fit a space is time-consuming.

Here, we take a look at some of the pieces being shown:

By Debora Aldo (2018) W:18″  x H: 36”
: Pebble, Smalti, Stone, bone, shell on a hand-formed cement panel. 

Commenting on her piece, Debora Aldo writes: “Humans seek to rise but just as often we move forward and fall back. Can we overcome chaos? Are we actually capable of mitigating conflict and acting peacefully? I believe the answer is yes but it is a glacially slow process and it will happen. We will come to understand our chaos is our own creation. The substrate of this piece was created dimensionally and then set with tesserae (small cubes or pieces of stone, glass or other materials). The gradient brings the eye from the base to the top of the work.

Earth Day
By Nikki Sullivan (2020). W12” x H18”.
Marble, stone, rusted scrap metal, crumbled asphalt, scrap wood, pottery, beads and turquoise beads

Earth Day by Nikki Sullivan (2020)

Nikki Sullivan comments: “This piece is a true reminder of how much junk gets strewn about and left on the ground, littering our streets, playgrounds and yards. This work includes rusted metal wires and various other metal parts found on walks or near a soccer field I used to walk at. It also has a piece of scrap wood from our home renovation from a poorly cleaned-up yard from the contractors, along with crumbled asphalt from roadwork. This is one of two pieces I created during Covid when I was laid off for eight months and had plenty of time to reflect on all the junk I have collected from my walks and thrifting hunts.”  

Earth Day (detail) by Nikki Sullivan (2020)

By Anabella Wewer (2023). W46″ x H30″. 
Marble, antique safety glass, fossils, wood, sea shells, pottery, calcite, glass, found metal objects

2°C (2023) by Anabella Wewer. W46″ x H30″. Photo by Ryan Hulvat.

Anabella Wewer comments: “While glaciers melt and calve, and water levels inevitably rise around the globe, they reveal artefacts that were covered under snow and ice for hundreds or thousands of years. Ships, mummified bodies, extinct animals, tools, and more, appear at the surface, along with carbon dioxide, potential viruses, and innumerable things we cannot easily see. The warming of the planet, potentially fatal for thousands of species, is changing the regions in which plants and animals grow. Mineral and oil exploration is happening closer to the poles, and already spills have occurred. Humans are able to reach points that were much harder to reach before. The balance between all of this will determine our future.”

2°C (safety glass detail) by Anabella Wewer (2023). Photo by Ryan Hulvat.

Find out more about the exhibition and opening hours at orgcomplex.org.

Photos courtesy of the artists unless otherwise stated.