MIKE MANDEL MOSAIC TILE PUBLIC ART PROJECTS
Skyview High School - Vancouver WA, 1999
One inch porcelain tile
10' x 60'
in collaboration with Larry Sultan
Our process as artists for this project was to respond to the community of Skyview High School during the 1998-99 school years. We were interested in recognizing how young people begin to realize themselves in high school as they transition into the next phase of their lives. We visited the school and spent time in classes, at lunch and after school, photographing and interviewing a wide variety of students. At this time Skyview was in its first year of existence and the idea of creating an artwork that would acknowledge this moment became important to us. The styles of the students' clothing, the language and activities depicted in the mural are all chosen to reflect contemporary life at Skyview High School.
We chose to position the mural on the second floor walkway, a space that students can easily come in contact with. We considered other spaces that were more easily observed from a distance, but decided that it was crucial to the piece that it fit within the everyday space of school life.
Our mural is composed of four sections: "Hand on heart", "Globe", "Girl with basketball and composition", and "Portraits".
"Hand on heart" depicts three students photographed during the pledge of allegiance ceremony at a school-wide assembly. The pledge is a traditional ceremony that connects Skyview with all public school ceremonies that have taken place ever since public education came into existence. But the particular styles: the unbuttoned plaid shirt, the font style and basketball image on the t-shirt, the girl's jewelry and blouse style, all speak to contemporary customs. The gesture of the pledge, with "Hand on heart" also refers to a much wider metaphor: one touches the heart to touch the spirit, to make a promise, to make an emphatic gesture of affirmation.
"Globe" portrays a world globe perched on a couple of stacked chairs within the doorway area of the wall. The globe, of course is a representation of the world; it sits where a student might sit. The school experience is a preparation for life in the world. To be a student is to open up to the world. The doorway is a metaphor for a student's experience of entering class and discovering a whole new world.
"Girl with basketball and composition" was designed to make reference to the fact that girls are able to define their identities in ways much more expansive than in earlier generations. This girl both reads a composition and holds a basketball. She is dressed in a t-shirt with her hair pulled back in pigtails. But instead of pigtails referring to how a very young girl might look when going out to play, this is a young woman athlete who is seriously out to play basketball. And in another role, she is an academic reading her composition. We felt it was important to recognize the changing roles and opportunities for young women. The basketball visually connects to the basketball on the boy's shirt in "Hand on heart" and also is similar in form to the globe.
"Portraits" depict fifteen different portraits of Skyview students from the first year. We chose to photograph and design the portraits as close-ups, first to refer to the history of school yearbook portraiture, but also to make for a more intense dramatic portrayal of the personalities. Our process was to photograph over a hundred students and then to choose faces that we felt reflected the Skyview community of students. Here, we hope that particular students will be able to recognize themselves and use this mural as a touchstone, and bring their own children back to this place twenty years later and make a connection to their experience at Skyview. The students chosen for depiction in the mural were not chosen for any specific reason, other than the fact that they were there.