Steven Paul started his mosaic career 10 years ago under the instruction of Isaiah Zagar while living in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. There was a classroom element but actually working on the wall, “I felt like I got it,” said Paul.
When he moved to Roanoke about five years ago he started a mosaic on his garage wall and loved how it turned out.
Since then, Paul has completed several mosaics on backs of garages in alleys around city streets like Arlington, Blenheim and Wasena.
This one however is in a very public location. For several days starting from 7:30 am to about 10:30 am Paul and his assistant Gretchen Coleman take buckets of quick-set cement and tiles of various shapes, colors and sizes, climb ladders and step stools to create one of Roanoke’s newest installments of public art.
Building owner and Roanoke resident Leslie Santapaul, who is an abstract painter, bought the building at 310 2nd Street SW about four years ago.
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Paul’s artistic approach is similar to Santapaul’s approach. It’s all about the process rather than executing something fully conceived beforehand, said Santapaul. Paul’s mosaic proposal included rough shapes that appealed to Santapaul. She described the flowing, circular imagery as an “interlocking fish/bird scenario. I’m a diver and loved the fish imagery,” she said.
Santapaul’s arts patronage is somewhat inspired by another Roanoke street artist like Dorothy Gillespie, whose work is listed as being located on a building’s wall on the corner of Church Avenue and South Jefferson Street, at several other public libraries and buildings at City Market.
Paul works in abstract mosaics only. “If people want me to do representational (mosaics), I don’t do it,” he said. “(The current project) reminds me of a forest floor in terms of there are so many things going on. You see something different every time which is really why I like doing it.”
Paul doesn’t work with any specific audience in mind. “Any one and every one. If it makes you smile, that’s fine with me. I’m not doing this for someone else.”
Paul started www.MultiverseMosaics.com when he needed a name for his website in order to show off his work online. “I like to think I understand some small part of quantum mechanics. I was many years ago into the idea of the multiverse. When you start to put a tile on, you worry, ‘Should it go here or should it go there.’ And I quickly came to realize, don’t worry just put it on, and in a different universe you put it somewhere else. And every time you put it down you’re creating the mosaic that’s going left, and when you put it down here maybe you put it over there for another one.”
“What I’m really hoping for is just more walls will come out of this. There’re a lot of old factory buildings that are lying around that are kind of being used or not that I’d love to be able to do some of those surfaces.”