Northland Images Imbedded in Broken Mirror Mosaic

Lee Zimmerman (218)310-8548

This proposal is for a large broken mirror mosaic to cover the mechanical works for the DECC expansion. The wall is about 108' long and grows from 6 to 11 feet high over its run. The mosaic will cover the entire length of the wall with irregular shaped sections of mirror. They will be made primarily from recovered, recycled materials.

Some of the mosaic pieces will have a small downward angle. This will reflect the grass in the easement. Some of the mosaic pieces will have an upward angle, reflecting the sky. Although the entire surface will be made of angled fragments of mirror with no color, as one drives or walks by, at a certain point they will see a sparkling forest of green trees surrounding a blue lake and sky - made entirely from reflections.

The image of a forest surrounding a lake is painted not on the surface of the fence, but rather in its reflections. At night, the grass would be illuminated, creating a sparkling green forest out of a black night sky. Seasonally, by laying lights on the surface of the grass or snow, a forest of christmas lights will appear. Because the pieces of the mosaic are irregular and placed by hand there will be subtle shifts in the angle, creating a surface that randomly sparkles with movement, even when the forest scene is not apparent.




Main Points of Proposal

1) A roughly 8' by 100' broken Mirror Mosaic

2) Creates a forest and lake scene by reflection on approach

3) Made primarily from recovered/recycled materials

4) Unique, distinctive, and eye-catching artistic piece

5) Easy to clean and repair



Estimate of Materials and Time

The fence, which will support the mosaic, is made of a solid 3/4 inch plywood sheets across posts 4"x4"x10' posts sunk into concrete tubes. There will be a 2" wooden frame along the top, bottom, and side edges of the fence to frame the mosaic. There will be about 1500 square feet of thin mirror pieces covering the entire length of the wall.

All of the mirrored mosaic tiles will be captured from recovered/recycled materials. Several months before the first tile is laid, a call will go out to stockpile broken and unwanted mirrors. Duluth Glass and Mirror and St. Germaines have agreed to let me collect their waste mirror sections. Although the amount of scrap mirror depends on the projects that they are working on, St. Germaines estimated that they generated from 50 to 100 square feet of waste mirror per week. Other community collection points will be set up for scrap mirror. There will be announcements of the need and a possible small fee paid for these unused recycled mirror pieces. Differences in thicknesses of the mirrors will be incorporated into patterns in the mosaic. These mirrors will be broken and cleaned. The large pieces will be separated from the small pieces. The mosaic pieces will average about 4 square inches for the water and sky and about 1 square inch for the trees.

A rough sketch of the silhouette of the forest will be drawn on the fence surface. An angled form, on the surface of the fence, will be created out of plaster molding material, recycled cardboard, and sealed with an acrylic binder. The form will help to angle the pieces of mirror - much like a Fresnel lens bends light. Each piece of the mosaic is glued to fill out the drawing and angled appropriately. Each tile of the mosaic must be shaped and set by hand.

Once the mosaic is in place, the whole surface will be grouted and polished. The grout surface will be sealed to make it less sensitive to water penetration. Because the surface of the mosaic is primarily glass and its tiles are randomly shaped, painted graffiti (even permanent marker) will be easy to remove using soap and a washcloth. Also, because of the random nature of the mosaic, sections that are broken can be easily replaced without developing any visibly patched sections.

I estimate it to take approximately forty to sixty days to complete the tile work. This would include the collection of recycled materials, fence support, under painting, creation of the plaster form, sealing the form, shaping and setting the mosaic tiles, grouting, sealing the grout, and polishing, green cover landscaping, lighting, one year maintenance, and design fee. It would also include a subcontract with local artists and sculptors that are familiar with these materials to help construct the mosaic.


More Details on Construction

1) A soft form will be constructed on the vertcal surface of the plywood wall from stapled recovered cardboard. This soft form will be covered with a plaster of paris and cotton gauze fabric to create a harder structure like the cast on a broken leg. An acrylic binder will be painted onto this plaster form which will create a waterproof hard surface and glue the form to the plywood. Each mosaic piece will be glued to this form using liquid nails so that the result is a reasonably smooth surface with less than an eight of an inch separation between fragments. The liquid nails is a slightly flexible, waterproof, strong glue which binds to the surface creating an even more solid relief form on the plywood understructure. A sanded grout will be pushed between the glued mosaic fragments which will be sealed to resist water penetration. The end result is a relief mosaic that is bound tightly to the understructure that is primarily a thin layer of glass and cement. This process is similar to how they produce organic forms for museum displays. This process is similar to how they produce organic forms for museum displays. The materials used to construct the mosaic will be primarily non-toxic.

2) The depth of the relief at any point in the mosaic is determined by the ideal viewing distance, the size of the grass easement, and the height of the fence. The angles, necessary to get the right reflections in the image, changes as we go from top to bottom of the fence. These angles are a minimum for green on the lowest parts of the fence and for blue on the highest points on the fence. They are a maximum for green on the highest parts of the fence and for blue on the lowest points on the fence.

3) An example of the worst case can be found by examining the angle necessary to create a green at the top of the fence. For this example, we will assume an optimum viewing distance of fifty feet from the fence ( this is essentially infinity), that the fence is 11 feet high, and the grass easement is 6 feet wide. The minimum angle necessary for this geometry is 31 degrees. This means that for every four inches vertical the form has to have about two and a half inches of depth. If we limit the vertical expanse of a section to not more than six inches our worst depth would be three and a half inches at the top or the bottom of the fence. At every other part of the mosaic the necessary minimum depth would be smaller. For example, at half the hieght of the fence, for a rise of six inches the depth would be two and a quarter inches.

4) My intent is to be involved with and be a major part of building all aspects of this mosaic. I also plan to subcontract with artists and sculptors that are familiar with these materials and that I know can work with these materials safely. The fence understructure will be subcontracted to a local builder as will the grass of the easement.

5) The actual fence to be constructed would form a slowly increasing trapazoid - its hieght gradually rising from six feet to eleven feet over its 108 foot run. This is about one thousand square feet of mosaic. The pattern of sky, lake, and trees will use this trapaziodal boundary to reinforce the sense of depth of the image. When we look at a trapazoid, we naturally get a sense of the smaller side being farther away than the larger side. The image created from the reflections will play into this effect to make the mosaic image seem deeper than it is.


Viewing the Artwork

The mirror mosaic from most vantage points would seem to disappear. It would reflect its surrounding, seem much as the exterior of the surrounding buildings. From a distance it would sparkle, especially if someone is moving. The mosaic is truly meant to be viewed by cars driving on the entry road or walkers entering the building, or from a certain plane about the same level as the mosaic. These people will see a forest of trees created by the reflection of the grass, surrounding a lake created by the reflection of the sky. The green facets of the mosaic trees will shimmer like leaves blowing in a breeze. At night, the grass can be illuminated presenting those moving along the road with a green forest surrounded by a black sky with sparkling stars.

Seasonally the reflected images of the trees can be changed by coloring or lighting the surface of the grass (or rather snow). In the fall, spreading colored leaves across the grass would paint the reflected trees in fall colors. In the winter, sparkling Christmas trees can be made by stretching out strings of light on the grass area.


Artists Background

Lee Zimmerman lives with his family in Duluth, Minnesota. He was born in Idaho and lived in New Orleans for eight years before moving to Duluth in 1998. He is a trained electrical engineer and has spent much of his academic life researching visual perception. As part of his research, he was drawn to the visual arts.

Lee has written several articles in American Artists. He has exhibited his work in New Orleans, Santa Fe, Baltimore and Duluth. He has performed large-scale live silk painting with several different orchestras and dance companies. He performed live silk painting at the International Silk Painters Festival in Santa Fe in 2006, outside of London in the UK in 2007, and with Cirque de Symphonie and the Duluth Symphony Orchestra in 2009. His work was exhibited with the Masters of Silk Painting at the 2008 International Silk Painting Festival. Along with his painting, he had an exhibit of photography during October 2008 at Lizzard's Art Gallery in Duluth.

Lee has also exhibited several large sculptural pieces, "Expectations" at the Duluth Art Institute in 2002, "Broken Angel" at the exhibit Art and Peace 2004 at the First Methodist Church (copper topper) and later at the rotunda in the Depot (this used angled broken mirrors to bring an image together), and "Reflecting Beauty" for the Bridging for Art Program in May 2005. He has been chosen to contribute artistic instruments to the Duluth Superior Symphony Fundraising Auction for three years in a row. These include a broken mirror mosaic violin, an oboe with wings, and four arms embracing a golden violin.

A more detailed CV can be found HERE.

Artist's Experience with Broken Mirror Mosaics

I have made several large mosaics. The most public, and the most pertinent for this proposal, was the mirror mosaic bridge that I created for the "Bridging for Art" program in 2005. This was a program to celebrate the 100 year anniversary of the aerial lift bridge. The art bridge was located near St. Lukes. It had imbedded in its surface some medical symbols. A car driving up to it, would see a flashing green snake (reflection of the grass) surrounding a blue staff (reflection of the sky) forming the rod of Asclepius. This bridge can be seen today in front of a house on the corner of Gladstone St and Rockview Ct in Duluth. It has survived five Duluth winters in good shape.

Also, in 2007, I created a mirrored mosaic violin for auction at the Duluth Superior Symphony Orchestra Fundraiser. It was sold for $1500.