This small, haunting mosaic brooch by Cynthia Toops kept drawing me back to it. The image is of Sharbat Gula, the Afghan girl whose portrait was featured on the cover of National Geographic in 1985. She became known as the Afghan Mona Lisa and her photograph inspired millions to support the refugee effort.
Cynthia reinterpreted the famous photograph in a 2″ x 1 1/4″ polymer micro mosaic for an exhibit called Louder Than Words at Facere Gallery in Seattle. She embeds thread-like, pre-baked bits of color into an unbaked polymer background to recreate the photo image.
Cynthia also rendered the Tianamen Square photo in polymer for the exhibit which featured jewelry that spoke louder than words. Her beautifully detailed work reminds us how powerful and exquisite polymer can be! Cynthia’s new self-published portfolio of her latest works is a treasure too.
claire maunsell ,
This is very moving – a powerful reinterpretation of an iconic photograph that builds and furthers our experience of being human.
Vicky Seixas ,
The nuance of colors really fascinating, and in such a small piece. T
he eyes are just as hypnotic as in the original.
Cynthia Toops’ skill as a storyteller is matched only by her vision as an artist. In 2 1/2 square inches, she has honored Sharbat Gula as an adult and as a child, as well as Steve McCurry, the photographer who introduced the Afghan refugee to the world.
Yes, she is am,azing. I loved that she had both photos of her as a young girl and as an adult. You can see the stresses of life that had changed her.
Great post Cynthia.
Impeccable, Gorgeous, Inspiring!
Laurie Mika ,
Cynthia’s work is amazing in its detail and I love how the miniature scale of her work is juxtaposed with the huge message that each piece conveys. Bravo!
Ronna Sarvas Weltman ,
So powerful. So inspirational. Thank you for this fabulous find.
I still have this National Geographic! It’s actually framed in my studio, I just love her eyes! This piece is EXCELLENT and really draws you in, just like the original photograph:) Beautiful!
Randee M Ketzel ,
Cynthia is always amazing. Always.
Toops is one of my all-time favorite artists in any medium! I can’t understand how she can still SEE working so tiny for so long, but I am honored to own one of her pins. (I never wear it, though — I’m deathly afraid of losing it!! It’s in a shadow box, with a Kathleen Dustin piece, that I look at every morning getting dressed.) This one is, as usual, incredible.
I immediately knew who this was!! Absolutely amazing and I have been enamoured with Ploymer Clay Mosaics for a long time. Would love some input on the fabrication.
If you mean you want info on Toops’ fabrication techniques, I heard her speak about that in the past. (There might have been an article in Ornament or somewhere like that, too — can’t recall.)
As I recall, this is what she did back then — maybe things have changed a bit… She rolls out hair thin strands of clay in subtle variations of color, bakes them, then cuts them up with a single-edged razor blade into bitsy pieces maybe about 1/8 inch long, or less. She has containers that have mixtures of closely related colors that intermix for the beautiful tones she uses. She uses soft raw clay as a base, often set into custom silver bezels, and uses tweezers to carefully position the tesserae into the clay, then bakes again. In a nutshell!
Look at the pin above and realize that the real thing is probably actual size or smaller than shown. Think about what that means to the size of the particles she designs with!
Some would point to this and say, “Isn’t this a PRIME example of “stealing” an idea/image/technique?? (The photo, the mosaic technique used since the Byzantine Era…)
A good bit of the polymer community has suddenly gone nuts about this ridiculous concept – shapes, colorations, alleged “proprietary” techniques….
These people need to realize that everything that surrounds us is inspiration. No one OWNS a shape, a technique, a style…true artists are INSPIRED by things so in essence, nothing is original (see the famous quote by Jim Jarmusch)…
Nice work, BTW.
Hope the photographer isn’t of the same mindset as certain “famous” polymer art folks and cry that you STOLE his image…
Exceptionally well done!