One typically imagines a chandelier as a grand, ornate structure suspended over a ballroom of sorts, but in the world and mind of an iconoclastic artist, there are many different interpretations for the word, especially when it comes to the creative use of commercial building components.
Paul Pearman is an accomplished mosaic artist who works out of his studio in Augusta, Ga. Known for his attention to detail, as well as for using the tiniest of mosaic tiles within his creations, Pearman’s projects can range in size from miniscule to mammoth.
“From small projects, such as mosaic designs on belt buckles, to immense projects such as three-dimensional mosaic-clad hanging chandeliers, I want my artwork to be of the highest quality. And, I want the designs I create to last for generations,” he says.
Because of his artistic philosophy and remarkable body of work, he was chosen to design and create a chandelier that would be the main attraction in the new College of Dental Medicine at Georgia Health Sciences University. Pearman says he was determined to build a piece that was “unlike any other.”
The resulting chandelier—an intricate, sculpted, one-of-a-kind creation now suspended above the building’s lobby—merits a double-take. According to Pearman, this unique, abstract piece of art took nine months to build, “and quite frankly drove all of us, including family and friends, to near insanity. But, the final outcome was of such a strong image, was so visually appealing, that right now people are colliding into each other taking pictures of it. There have been two film documentaries chronicling the building of this mosaic chandelier. There is even going to be a competition held in the near future to give it a name. I am very proud and thankful to have been given the opportunity to create this design.”
Pearman’s initial ideas were inspired by the famed surreal Salvador Dalí painting, “Geopoliticus Child Watching the Birth of a New Man.”
“In that painting,” Pearman says, “you see a man breaking out of an egg, with an amazing warped draping of gilded colors hanging directly above him. That draping really got my mojo working.”
He subsequently assembled a team of skilled laborers to work on the sculpture just after the new building was erected. The foundation of the actual sculpture was built of steel, then covered with carved foam and fiberglass materials. Thousands upon thousands of pieces of reflective glass and metal, some extremely minute, were cut with tiny nippers and then bonded via Laticrete materials to the structure’s “body,” all by hand. In some cases, because the pieces were so small, affixing them to meet the extremely high creative standards of the project required the use of dental utensils.
The final design, which to some is reminiscent of a gigantic jellyfish, consists of four separate hanging tiers, all covered with an ongoing design incorporating three brilliant colors of both iridescent and non-iridescent glass mosaics. The middle tier of the sculpture contains more than $20,000 worth of hidden LEDs to add illumination; the lowest level of the structure features a teardrop pendant wrapped around a brushed chrome globe, which contains a clock.
The sculpture measures 28 feet tall from top to bottom, and its lowest point is only 9 feet from the floor.
According to Connie Drisko, dean of the College of Dental Medicine and the person who initially asked Pearman to make his chandelier production proposal to the school, “We did not want our new building to have the look of an institution or a hospital.
We wanted a warm, inviting environment. We wanted unique artwork.” Pearman’s sculpture actually represents the beginning of a larger program jumpstarted by Drisko, which aims to add more artworks to the dental college in the future.
At the 11th Annual Mosaic Arts International 2012, presented by the Society of American Mosaic Artists, Pearman won the Juror’s Choice Award for his innovative, multi-tiered chandelier, which was finally named “The Four Stages of Higher Learning.”
“This project was clearly a learning experience,” Pearman explains. “This may be the only chandelier of its kind in the world, where all of the tiny mosaic pieces are affixed to the body of the sculpture using industrial strength grout and nothing else. We’d have it no other way.”
Pearman’s chandelier evokes the awe factor in just about everyone who has witnessed his unique creation firsthand. The beauty and originality of using mosaic tiles for this project has drawn plenty of attention, and the school and Pearman were both very pleased with the final outcome of the centerpiece.
“Our collective goal was to create a piece that was as original as the learning experience students receive at the institution,” Pearman says. “I think we surpassed even our own expectations in that regard.”
Ron Treister is the president and owner of Communicators International, a marketing communications firm with a strong niche in the ceramic tile and stone industry
headquartered in Portland, Maine, with satellite offices in Chicago and Springfield, Mo. Chris Keating is Communicators International's account coordinator.