Master of the Mosaic
With the year 2012 fast approaching, I thought it was time to get a first-hand look at mosaic artist and sculptor Gaetan D’Arcy’s famous work: a six-foot wide intricately sculpted Aztec calendar, complete with moving parts. I’d seen the unusu-
al and beautiful work in photographs such as the one that ran in last week’s Stanstead Journal after Mr. D’Arcy received the prestigious Academia Award, however, when I saw the actual piece it reminded me of the stonework done centuries ago by passionate craftspeople with time and talent on their hands. “When you start something like this you have to go all the way without stopping. It took me one and a half years to do that calendar,” said Mr. D’Arcy about the piece that sits majestically in his Magog studio, weighing several thousand pounds, waiting for the right buyer.
Gaetan learned the secrets of sculpting stone while working in the Stanstead granite industry for Berchman Cloutier for eight years. “Gaetan used to carve the bases of monuments. He learnt to listen to the stone; he knows how to work the rock by the sound that it makes,” commented his wife and fellow artist, Josée Monast.
Gaetan’s mosaic work is equally as impressive as his sculpting, featuring carefully cut pieces of granite, slate, marble and stone he’s found on his wooded property. Picking up a plain-looking, beige-coloured rock that he had cut in half and polished, he turned it over to reveal a sparkling white, yellow and green interior. “All lands have their treasures,” he said. He not only uses these local treasures to add something special to his unique mosaics, some of which have more than four thousand pieces, he has begun incorporating semi-precious stones, like cat’s eye and falcon’s eye, into his work.
Referring to an Egyptian motif inspired fireplace that he recently completed for a client, Gaetan said: “Just in one of the eyes there are four hundred pieces and some precious stones.”
Whether it’s a mosaic of Celine Dion, a magnificent lion, or a mandala-like design, Gaetan seems to be able to create any image he wants from thin pieces of stone that he laboriously and meticulously cuts. “I can draw anything,” said the artist, adding: “But I do the mosaics because it challenges me. You can’t love what you do unless you create challenges for yourself.”
His passion for mosaic work began simply enough: one day he saw a pile of tiles on his father’s front porch and he began experimenting with them. An art student who was present during the interview commented: “Curiosity is often a huge strength in gifted artists.”
Each of Gaetan’s mosaics, be it a custom-made piece for a client’s hall floor like the flying owl embedded in the floor of his workshop, something for a kitchen, bathroom or living room, or one of his self-inspired works, is different. “People don’t like repetition – they want to have something unique. In the end, it is the originality that matters.”
Interviewed last week near the end of the federal election campaign, I asked Mr. D’Arcy to comment on the fact that the arts and culture didn’t seem to be on any of the parties’ agendas this time around, he answered: “The Academie des Beaux Arts (who recently gave him the Academia award) are the only ones who organize a gala for artists in Quebec.”
Although Gaetan now earns his living only through his art, he admitted: “I don’t have many clients but I have good ones. I’ve reached the point in my career where I’m always working on special orders. C’est le fun!”
People interested in viewing Mr. D’Arcy’s work can visit his website at www.lesmosaiquesdarcy.com or visit his Magog studio, this summer, during the Circuits des Arts Memphremagog. He is this year’s president.
Gaetan D’Arcy holds a beautiful rock that he found on his property and polished, to use later in a mosaic.