Most contemporary mosaic, like stained glass, takes the form of independent panels or is architectural. Few artists have developed the medium for contemporary sculpture, and in this regard, Ann Gardner’s work is exceptional. She has realized ambitious architectural projects and large-scale sculpture and installations, succeeding both in taking mosaic out of the limited contexts in which it is traditionally applied and in finding new potential for the medium.
Born in Eugene, Oregon, Gardner studied painting, ceramics, and drawing at the University of Oregon and at Portland State University. In 1979, she moved to Seattle, where she lives and works today.
Gardner’s monumental sculptures, covered in shimmering glass tiles, can be found in buildings and public spaces throughout the country. She intends for her work to look simple and natural, which is the result of intense planning, long hours of work, and complicated installation. She employs a wide range of colors in her work, but her individual pieces are characteristically monochromatic. Fog, a 12-foot high installation composed of over 100 hanging, mosaic-covered pods, evokes the ambiguity of clouds that are opaque one moment and transparent the next. With its shifting hues of grays and whites, Fog is about moments in time.
To make her glass tiles (tesserae), Gardner uses the kind of colored sheet glass commonly found in stained glass. She glues metal leaf (either silver or gold) onto the back of her glass sheets, and then she cuts the sheets into one-half-inch squares. For Gardner, paint does not have the longevity of glass, and she cannot get the kind of sustained and intense color that she prefers from any other material.