River Song is a massive, five panel, gestural mosaic (13’6” H x 70’ L) located in the lobby of Gateway Plaza in downtown Richmond, VA. River Song, by commissioned artists Carol Mickett and Robert Stackhouse, is based on their original painting of the rapids of the James River that runs through the center of Richmond, VA. The mosaic is composed of a mixture of Italian and iridescent glass, natural stone and white gold Smalti. These diverse materials, combined with a positive setting technique, add a textured finish and enhance the overall aesthetic quality of the work.
Mickett and Stackhouse wanted to capture the great force of the James River rapids and have the viewer “hear the power of the river through the visual tiles.” The artists worked in concert with the talented artisans of Franz Mayer of Munich studios in Munich, Germany, to produce this uniquely gestural mosaic. Capturing the power of the rapids was crucial since it was these rapids that forced ships traveling west from the Atlantic Ocean to halt their journey and force its crew and passengers to either return down river or off load and start a settlement. This is how Richmond was created. River Song is intended to honor the importance of the James River to the City of Richmond.
With his insightful vision, Bob Clark, CEO of Clayco, commissioned Mickett and Stackhouse to create the lobby of the new signature building in the heart of Richmond’s financial district with anchor tenant McGuire Woods, Richmond’s esteemed international law firm, as a destination and unified place. As such, River Song is part of Mickett and Stackhouse’s Gateway Trio that also includes the sculpture Clear Passage and the embedded flow lines Capitol Flow.
In order to produce River Song, Mickett and Stackhouse had to create a painting that worked as a whole but also ensured that each of its five panels worked as independent paintings. Their painting was required to be made in the proportion: one inch to one foot. The painting was delivered to Munich, where the Mayer staff created a digital file of each panel and a print out to scale that guided the setting of the mosaic. The artists worked side by side with the artisans in the Munich studios overseeing the work-in-progress: selecting colors, creating flow maps, and observing the hand setting of various mosaic tiles and hand-shaped rock. Over an eight-month period, a team of a dozen skilled artisans assembled this large-scale, five-panel mosaic.
Art matters. Attention to the details of our environment leads to love of place, which brings us to take responsibility for the spaces where we live and work. And by extension, the people with whom we live and work. And by extension, to our local communities, our cities, our nations, and our world.
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