A REVIEW AS SEEN IN
SEPTEMBER 2003 ISSUE
An exerpt from
EXHIBITIONS IN SIGHT
by Burton Wasserman
Walking through and around Jacqueline Lagakos' house and surrounding grounds in Lindenwold, NJ is a rich and memorable experience. Immediately, it calls to mind memories of the Watts Towers in south central Los Angeles, put together decades ago by the incomparable self-taught American artist, Simon Rodia. In both cases, decorative embellishment is everywhere in evidence. It consists of assorted bits and pieces of glass, stone, tile, mirror fragments,building construction left-overs and odd souvenirs from different places, all firmly embedded in mortar and held together with a grout compound made of waterproof mastic. Together, they lend an amazing ornamental presence to the property, inside and out. It's as if the setting extends a friendly handshake to whoever may chance to enter. Without hesitation, one would say it's unique and nothing short of spectacular.
The floors and many of the walls in the 150 year old structure are all en-hanced with the mosaic elements. Even the music room on the second floor, used principally by the artist's double-bass-violin playing husband, is adorned with her version of that instrument, given shape in an original style that Is magnetically appealing. All of these decorative factors reflect Lagakos'personal individuality of spirit and unique outlook on life.
As a complete entity, the home is an exceptional environment in which the art and the artist's independent personality are fused and intertwined. This explains why her approach to making art is so marvelously unconventional and free of any stale, academically trite, pre-conceived mannerisms.
Like her residence, Lagakos' framed mosaic compositions transport a viewer to a delightfully surprising universe of colors and a sincerity of expressive content, all their own. Above all, her sensitive feeling for the subtle hue and shade relationships is supremely tasteful, never garish.
This month, an exquisite selection of her small scale, frame enclosed artworks, rendered in the mosaic technique, is on view in the College Center Gallery of Gloucester County College in Deptford, NJ. It is interesting to see how completely Lagakos is in command of her medium, whether in large out-door designs or in a related but considerably reduced size.
All of the pieces in the exhibition manifest a distinctive potential for making an interior setting such as a professional office or a home living room vibrate with a rare combination of esthetic energy and studied control.
Exercising a disciplined touch in the pursuit of her vision, she never introduces an unduly heavy hand into the process.
Like an ancient philosopher, intent on giving voice to a reach for wisdom, she brings understanding into focus that are illuminated by an unusually poetic approach. For those able to respond to her vocabulary of form, the insights she offers are far-reaching conclusions on the nature of tranquility, mystery and eternity.
What might be dismissed at first merely as eccentric decoration is gradually seen to be a series of windows into enduring states of timeless wonderment. All of her images transcend the dull, ordinary appearance of the tedious calendar illustrations one sees all too frequently, in and out of the gallery scene. Instead, these artworks present spectators with a challenge to study them with patience and concentration. While the rewards for doing so can go deep into the heart of a viewer's being, the essence of their content can neither be measured quickly with such criteria as feet and inches nor be simplistically explained or described in words.
Lagakos became involved with making mosaic forms in 1998 when she attended a workshop on the subject conducted in his studio by the eminent Philadelphia artist, Isaiah Zagar. This was followed by a one year period as an assistant on several of the master's projects. Today, as she proceeds with the work of her own, he must surely be very proud of the achievements wrought by his exceptionally talented protegé.
Clearly, she has found the process of mosaic-craft ideally suited to helping her articulate what she feels where all her nerve endings come together. What she has discovered by studying life in general and Zen Buddhism in particular has become the non verbal substance of her personally invented grammar and vocabulary of visual form.
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