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A Heroine of a Thousand Pieces on International Women’s Day

Textile artists inspired by mosaic artist, Lilian Broca

On March 8, International Women’s Day, Vancouver area SDA members met at the Italian Cultural Centre to host a talk and exhibition tour of Heroine of a Thousand Pieces by internationally known mosaic artist, Lilian Broca.

Created out of closely fitting hand-cut smalto glass fragments or tesserae, Lilian’s work was immediately intriguing to textile surface designers. Those who attended were visibly energized and inspired by Lilian’s words, and the impressive sketches and mosaic works of her Judith Series, on exhibit.

For Lilian, “the artist’s role is to listen, question and to expose.” And over the last 20 years, her work “has asserted the powerful female” by retelling ancient stories of women heroes who, despite societal restrictions, become leaders in their communities through acts of courage and sacrifice.

The artist discussed her use of colour, light and pushing the boundaries of historical expectations of her chosen medium, techniques, and narratives, to realize a contemporary and personally relevant artistic vision. She shared with us her research and preparation for each series of her works, her personal connection to her subject matter and her approach to bringing naturalistic sensuality, light and liveliness to the pixilated design surface of her compelling mosaics. We were glad to have had the opportunity to spend some time with this kindred spirit.

While wearing a scarf printed with one of her Judith mosaics, artist Lilian Broca talks about how each element, from colour choices to her heroine’s stance, has been considered in the creation of her iconic images.
While wearing a scarf printed with one of her Judith mosaics, artist Lilian Broca talks about how each element, from colour choices to her heroine’s stance, has been considered in the creation of her iconic images.

In the question period after her talk, Lilian talked about her experiences having her distinctive mosaics reproduced without her permission or knowledge on clothing and other items around the world. Making her own limited edition silk scarves using her imagery is her own statement and response. For an interesting read on this topic, see the recent interview with Lilian in the Globe and Mail.

SDA members at the exhibition of Lilian Broca’s Judith Series, Il Museo Gallery, Italian Cultural Centre, Vancouver, March 8, 2016  
SDA members at the exhibition of Lilian Broca’s Judith Series, Il Museo Gallery, Italian Cultural Centre, Vancouver, March 8, 2016

 

Lilian shared a number of example of a textile surface designs created in glass mosaic (Spilimbergo Mosaic School, Northern Italy) She noted that what gives these examples a “liveliness” is the unevenness of the tesserae and the fact that none of the lines are straight.
Lilian shared a number of example of a textile surface designs created in glass mosaic (Spilimbergo Mosaic School, Northern Italy) She noted that what gives these examples a “liveliness” is the unevenness of the tesserae and the fact that none of the lines are straight.

 

Here are a few pictures and further notes from that day.

Photos: S. Senaratne

Lilian noted that late last year, the Guggenheim Museum presented an exhibition called “STORYLINES: Contemporary Art at the Guggenheim”, a group exhibition examining how artists today forge new paradigms for storytelling. Drawing attention a kind of fashion that can sometimes sweep though artistic practice and how important it is to have confidence in your own personal vision, she went on to say, “Personally, I’ve been telling stories in my art since the 80s, when such art was hardly considered cutting edge…I formulate my own personal vision while remaining true to myself.”

Working with the aesthetics of Byzantine mosaic and creating a more naturalistic Post Modernist one, her contemporary art has been recontextualizing female narratives.

The Bible offers humanity profound insight into tough political and personal issues. The fascinating biblical books of Esther and Judith inspired me to recreate, or retell them through my own artistic, distilled vision. Terrible things happen in both stories. The Book of Esther includes a plot of genocide, a family’s execution, and the slaying of thousands. The Judith story speaks of the gory beheading of Assyrian General Holofernes by a Jewish widow who singlehandedly saves a whole town from slavery… the Books of Esther and Judith must be understood not just literally but also metaphorically.”

“I have erroneously been called a “religious artist”, but religion is not only a story of faith, it is a story of history and social values.”

“Esther and Judith’s stories each promote an individual, and particularly a woman’s sacrifice and determination to defend the liberty of her people.”

“After extensive research of the historical period in which the stories take place, I begin with sketching from models. Many, many, sketches which ultimately get painted as mosaic cartoons. These become guides for the duration of the mosaic execution.” These preparatory sketches and cartoons were exhibited along side the mosaics and added depth and delight for visitors to the show.


Lilian Broca’s show, A Heroine of a Thousand Pieces, is currently on exhibit at Toronto’s JD Carrier Art Gallery from May 5 – July 4, 2016. In August 2016, two of the Judith series mosaics travel to the curated group exhibition called “Characters in a Book” at the Lexington Public Library Fine Art gallery in Lexington, KY. Finally, from January 22nd to April 23rd, 2017, the entire exhibition goes to The Museum of Biblical Art in Dallas TX.