Visual Arts

New Glass Mosaics by Libbie Masterson Document Travels With Color and Light

Even if Libbie Masterson's name doesn't ring a bell, you still might be familiar with her work: She's got a large panoramic public art piece at William P. Hobby Airport in the international concourse area. The seven-panel glass mosaic is the perfect respite for harried travelers, delivering a calming water and sky landscape without asking too much from a viewer rushing to make a flight.

While Ethereal Sky is permanent and, at 35 feet in length, wouldn't fit in most homes anyway, a new exhibit at Catherine Couturier Gallery broadens her palette in new and exciting ways with seven smaller-scale glass mosaics inspired by her travels around the world.

Masterson, whom we named one of our 100 Creatives in 2012, offers up an inspiration board detailing how she paints landscapes during her trips, with some of those watercolors translating to the new mosaics in “Spectrum.” Her fascination with sound, seen in 2014's video project City Scenes (commissioned by the Houston Symphony and in collaboration with filmmaker Ford Gunter and composer Karim Al-Zand), also influences these works. Each mosaic is tied to a note on the musical scale, with a tuning fork (you're invited to touch) and a QR code that plays a musical accompaniment for the gadget-savvy.

Using smooth and textured glass with polished edges, the colored bits are backed by mirrors to create vibrant scenes from other places where the leaves actually change color with the seasons. She doesn't try to stay true to nature, as in Spectrum: Yellow in B-flat, where the wide road winds through a landscape of green and yellow bushes, yellow trees and a periwinkle sky; or in Spectrum: Red in G, where the trees boast a happy, candy-apple red.

Her use of sound ties into the theory that we all respond to different colors and notes, or certain combinations, and these mosaics are a great way to discover what resonates with you. Spectrum: Green in C uses gradually darker tints of green for the landscape elements, along with small, translucent green pebbles for the tree edges; while Spectrum: Indigo in E-flat positions the wide strips of glass in horizontal bands to form the water and sky, interspersed by gray clouds and a milky moon.

The mosaics change their appearance based on the viewer's position. Stand up close, and you'll notice both the texture of the glass and your own reflection in the mirror. Stand back a little and to the side, and there's an unsettling out-of-registration feeling. Step away even further, and appreciate the works for their cheerfulness, vibrancy and simplicity. Masterson doesn't wrap the edges with foil or use solder, making for a forgiving "it's okay to have gaps" technique.

The exhibit includes two dozen watercolors of varying sizes from her globetrotting, and it's fascinating to see how one of these paintings translated almost exactly to one of the new mosaics.

A 2008 group exhibit at the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, “Perspectives 162: Snow,” included a 360-degree installation by Masterson titled Antarctica 360º. Seven photographs of Antarctica from her previous series, “Ghost,” also are on view at Catherine Couturier Gallery, where the limited palette of white and pale blue tasks the viewer to look closer for the nuances.

“Spectrum” continues through October 15 at Catherine Couturier Gallery, open Tuesdays through Saturdays 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., 2635 Colquitt, 713-524-5070, Free.
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Susie Tommaney is a contributing writer who enjoys covering the lively arts and culture scene in Houston and surrounding areas, connecting creative makers with the Houston Press readers to make every week a great one.
Contact: Susie Tommaney