Advertisement
YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

Portraits in Glass

Silver Lake artist Mel Weiner sees faces as beautiful mosaics

June 10, 2007|Elizabeth Khuri

A large portrait of his daughter Anna hangs in the dining room. In the main room, a large mosaic of '50s boxer Carmen Basilio, with his dukes up, leans against the wall. "I used to watch him on TV," says Mel Weiner, who went to boxing matches at the Olympic with his father, an amateur fighter, on summer nights in the 1950s.

Weiner, a painter, began dabbling in mosaics nearly 10 years ago. He had trained at Chouinard (the precursor to CalArts in Valencia), then painted scenes for the prize showcases on "The Price Is Right." When his family moved to New Mexico in 1979, Weiner decided to build an adobe house by hand. "Just mixing mud, it's so clean and the smell was so good. I loved it so much, and I thought, 'I'm never going back to L.A.'"

Weiner also became fascinated by the beadwork of the Huichol Indians. "It's made by pushing the beads into beeswax," he says. Once, during a long drive, he heard an NPR piece about baseball cards and thought about reproducing them in beads. A beaded 4-by-7 rendition of a Joe DiMaggio baseball card in primary colors and turquoise-colored beads now hangs in his home's entryway.

When the family moved back to Los Angeles in 1995, Weiner decided to create something grander. The first pieces he made were mosaics of his daughter and wife, baseball stars and boxers. He's done custom work for entertainment industry clients, and most recently created a floral mural for a Chinatown building for DSR Design. You see his unconventional approach and sense of trickery in his use of color. He uses turquoise for shading, for example, and introduces "high-key" colors such as orange to accent eyes and jaw lines.

Next he hopes to do a series on California boxers, perhaps inspired by childhood memories of his scrappy Echo Park neighbor, boxer Lauro Salas. He recalls Salas' scarred face, his thick black hair, his solitary quest to balance labor and artistry. "Having to go it alone, I've always liked that," he says. "I like the medium, like this tone, the dirt. I like the reflective quality of the mosaic and the texture and the feel of running my hand along it. . . . Painting is very flat . . . it's more of a battle with a mosaic."

Advertisement
Los Angeles Times Articles
|
|
|