Mosaic is a slow art form – even mosaicists forget just how slow. At this stage in the project, I make mosaic every day from morning to night in order to cover my sculptural stones with real stone tiles in time for the opening. I'm using a combination of different marbles – Carrara (the stone from which the David is sculpted), Travertine (which clads so much of Roman architecture), Onyx (the white of the figure in an old cameo), Bianco Perlino, Botticino, and others. By using multiple white stones from different parts of the earth, I create a more complex, more nuanced white. There are also small tiles of gold and colored glass from Venice, known as smalti, which will reflect the sun and water of the island and cause the piece to glitter in the light.
Every tile is cut by hand with a specialized hammer and chisel, according to classical Byzantine technique – same tools, same process, everything. The tiles, known as tessere, range in size from about an inch to as narrow as a few millimeters. The placement and orientation of these tessere, as well as the variation in their dimensions, draws the viewer into the piece and conveys a sense of rhythm to the surface. Every day, thousands of tiles must be cut and placed by hand – it's a slow process, but a beautiful and meditative one, as well, made all the more beautiful by the arrival of spring. I've moved my cutting tools into the sun (my Bronx studio has a small backyard), and it's a pleasure to work.
Here are some images of the work in progress: