VOL 3 ... NO.2
JANUARY 11-18, 2007
Tackling the intricacies of art medias
November 28, 2006

Huntley Meadows by Nina Tisara

“Artists have to create,” quips Alexandria artist Nina Tisara when we met at the opening of her first exhibition as a mosaic artist. 

Her lifelong passion for art began as sculpture in high school, and then magnified into a career in creative photography. Her award-winning photojournalism documents the city of Alexandria and the people and personalities that define it. Collections of her work can be seen in the Queen Street Library and as a permanent collection in City Hall. 

Tisara Photography was incorporated in 1985 and soon became known for portraiture and event photos which have a personal and emotional appeal. Good photography freezes a moment in time and within that moment captures the emotional appeal that it is shared with those who view the work. 

Not one to be held back by time constraints, she continues working as a free-lance photographer and is currently crafting a project for a feature she conceived and titled “Living Legends of Alexandria” for exhibition at the Lyceum in 2008.

Tisara is known for her drive and unwillingness to settle into a comfort zone with her life or her work and made a decision to pursue a new and challenging direction.

In 2003, she formally turned over ownership of Tisara Photography to her children, Lynn Mills and Steven Halperson, which freed her up to focus on her own art. For the last two years she has immersed herself into the creation of mosaics. What started as an adult education class to dabble with a new challenge almost instantly became a passion. 

Gene Sterud, a retired archaeologist, and master of a double reverse process of creating with porcelain tiles inspired Tisara to tackle the intricacies of the media.  As Tisara’s mentor Sterud encouraged her to discover and create within the framework of the media.

Although she would be considered new to the media, it is clear that she has successfully bridged her photographic talents to make the transition flow seamlessly. Her mosaics have already been successfully juried into local group exhibitions and are beginning to find their way to collectors. As her body of work expands so will her exposure. She is an exhibiting member of Empowered Women International (www.ewint.org) and her work will be featured at their December exhibit. 

Expanding definitions
Mosaics are a form of decorative art in which small tiles or fragments of pottery are used to create a pattern or picture. The ancient history of using tiles as floor decoration stretches back to 2000 BC. 

Reaching back into historical use of materials is not uncommon. Tisara’s personal interpretation of the craft using chips of porcelain and occasionally glass fragments expands the definition.  What sets her work apart from others and gives it the mature dimension of artists working much longer in the media is the number of pieces each tile is cut into. 

There is no such thing as luck when she creates. Each small tile is shaped perfectly to convey the painterly intent of the piece. The color palette seems endless as she arranges pieces to flow into shapes and shades that flow through the work.  After completing the desired effects the tiles are grouted into place being sure that the spacing is an integral part of the design.  No area is less important than any other and the strength of Tisara’s innate sense of style, design and color make the composition whole.  Each design is totally original although she confesses to being occasionally inspired by her own art photography.  

“Huntley Snow” is one example of the artist’s crossing over between her two media and simultaneously showcasing her love of nature. She has the insight to imbue emotional appeal and depth in carefully captured photographs and then takes the same composition and interprets the work into her new media. The photo and mosaic it inspired were chosen to be exhibited for the 20th anniversary of Alexandria’s Multiple Exposures Gallery. 

Currently on display at Tisara Photography are two stunning and thoughtful mosaic angels. Nina shares that this is the beginning of a series of mosaics which will portray angels.  “Garden Angel” is imbued with a soft palette of color, traditional design and a stature that seems at first glimpse to be a traditional angel.  The insight to make each of the angels develop their own personality requires intensive work. Tisara knows precisely how each of these angels will make a statement about who they are through the careful shading and patterns that will create passion and sentiment. She will meditate peacefully in a zone of contemplation until each is just the way she wants it to be. This same intense concentration made her photographic dark room work the same labor of love. These are not stereotypical angels. Each is crafted with a nontraditional ethnicity which surprises the viewer with its simplicity and strength of character. Whether believing in the power of angels or just the power of women the viewer is drawn into the expressive, soulful eyes and powerful stature of these angels. The completed series, as a body of work, will strengthen the mystical properties and aura of each persona.  

Other pieces in smaller scale are floral and inspired by nature. The smaller palettes are no less intricate and are strengthened by their compositions and attention to detail. The striking off center composition of “Blue Poppies” leads the senses to appreciate the full dimension of the design. 

Nina Tisara is a gifted artist who has parlayed her exceptional talents to grow and refine her work as a mosaic artist. In fact, “New Growth” as the theme of her exhibition which can be seen by appointment at Gallery Indigo is perfectly fitting. Watch for a grand opening of the gallery in the spring at 1607 King Street. Her website is www.ninatisara.com

Trudi Van Dyke is an independent fine arts consultant and faculty member at George Mason University

Copyright © 2005 Alexandria Times. All rights reserved.