This park was founded by Stephanie Smither in memory of John Smither. They were both on the board of directors for the Orange Show for Visionary art. Stephanie still advocates for self-taught art through public spaces where everyone can create. She believes that everyone is an artist and that communities can be transformed through art. The park consists of a mosaic memory wall, an amphitheater, some swings, and a green space. All art within the park has been completed by community artists both academically trained and self-taught. Stephanie says, "There is something in all of us that wants to create."
The above mosaic intrigued me because when I first looked at it from far away, I didn't notice that it is composed of flattened blue and aqua bottles, spoons, and nail polish bottles. I was most intrigued by the fact that I had not initially seen the nail polish bottles. What do we miss by not looking closely at our environment? How does the smallest element relate to the bigger image? Transformation.
The nail polish bottles alone signify a search for beauty and color but when stuck in concrete and looked at from afar become koi fish in a Japanese pond or a quest for serenity.
The keys transform into wings. This is what makes found object mosaics and collages so interesting. You look closely and see individual objects that are imbued with meaning. With each gaze, the objects become juxtaposed in different orders with different objects and therefore, the meanings of the piece continually transform. Each gaze becomes its own art piece.
First, I was drawn to the mermaid mosaic and then specifically to her metal hair. This section of the metal hair became an abstract photo with its curvy lines and aqua blue and orange background. Transformation.
The different sized tile creates movement. Transformation.
And then there is the moment when the art is transformed by you. Look in the vase. Transformation.
What about transforming a van into a dragon?
The idea of transformation in art reminds me of the plastic Brazilian artist Vic Muniz's work. In 2009, he went to the biggest landfill in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, took photos, recruited people who worked in the landfill, blew up their photos to the size of a warehouse floor, and employed them to fill each photo with garbage. After the photo was filled with garbage, Vic Muniz photographed it. The garbage was transformed into beautiful portraits. All proceeds from the sell of these works went back to the people who work in the landfill.
The man on the left became a local politician and works for labor rights and the woman on the right opened her own restaurant. Their lives were transformed through this project. You can see the full documentary about this work here (click on the word here).
Muniz also completed sugar portraits of children whose parents work in the sugarcane fields in the Caribbean. He transformed the sugar into their image from the very sugar that their parents produced.
Creating art and art gazing is about transformation. Transforming nail polish bottles into koi fish, uneven tile into movement, garbage into meaningful portraits made by those represented, and sugar into portraits are all powerful symbols and illustrate not only how found objects, lines, paint, and shapes are transformed by us but how our identities are transformed through creating and gazing.