by Peter Jensen

Whether covering a dusty floor in a Popeian or Delosian palace, adorning a welcoming gate in a modern coastal city of San Diego, or a lamp in a living room, mosaics continue to capture our minds and love of metaphor like few other art forms.

When what is broken —accidentally or on purpose — transforms into complex beauty, we view it with inherent pleasure and often astonishment, especially when thousands of hours of handwork are obviously on display.

San Diego has an active community of mosaic artists creating both public works and private commissions. Ilan-Lael co-founder James Hubbell may be the patriarch of the group in both age and prolificness, but he cites the work of many others as exciting contributors to the genre.

Several San Diego artists, like Betsy Schulz and the late Rhoda LeBlanc Lopez, combine traditional mosaic techniques using found items, broken tile, and glass or tile chips, with sculptural tiles and textured bricks of their own design, some very elaborate. The boundaries of what is a “mosaic” have been stretched, even broken!

Is it time for you to commission a mosaic? Visit a public-art mosaic? The list below will get you started. We’re trying to pull together a master list of public-place mosaics (historic and contemporary) and active artists in the San Diego region, so please contribute by sending your additions to We apologize if we missed you. Special thanks to Keith York (his is a treasure trove of mid-century modern artist and architect profiles), Dirk Sutro, Tomás Herrera-Mishler, and Carolyn Owen-Towle.

On the mosaic trail: Mosaic artists and artworks in greater San Diego

ITALO BOTTI*, Botti Studio of Architectural Arts, New York, NY, His massive “Neighbors Helping Neighbors” mural on Villa Harvey Mandel (St. Vincent DePaul), at 72 17th St. is a classic homage to volunteer spirit in the community. pictured below.

STUARD BURTON (artist and mosaic teacher), Art Academy of San Diego,, (619) 231-3900.

JANE CHAPMAN* and WALTER CHAPMAN. Especially active in San Diego craft circles in the ‘50s-’60s. Furniture and household adornments. See their profile at

KIM EMERSON (artist and mosaic teacher), San Diego Mosaic School:, (619)379-1123. Her masterwork “River of Life” at Rady Children’s Hospital (pictured at left), 3020 Children’s Way, SD.

BRENNAN HUBBELL, (619) 632-8213, son of James Hubbell. Mosaic, sculpture, mixed-media, public art.

JAMES HUBBELL, Santa Ysabel (760) 765-0171. Mosaic, sculpture, mixed-media, public art. Of hundreds of mosaics and similar works in San Diego, most accessible is Pacific Rim Park, 1407a Shelter Island Drive.

RHODA LE BLANC LOPEZ* (b. 1912- d. 1993). Visit her memorial wall at First Unitarian Universalist Church of San Diego, 4190 Front St. Two large murals are in San Diego Juvenile Hall, 2801 Meadow Lark Drive.

SHERRIE LA PORT (artist and teacher),, (760) 500-8707. Workshops. Visit Vista Library mosaic, 700 Eucalyptus Avenue, Vista.

NIKI DE SAINT PHALLE* Colorful, cartoon-like monumental figures by an internationally known artist. Visit Queen Califia’s Magical Circle in the Iris Sankey Arboretum in Escondido’s Kit Carson Park. Limited hours. See Also famed “Sun God” on the UCSD campus and sculptures at Mingei Museum entrance, Balboa Park.

MILLARD SHEETS* architect and artist whose murals and artworks adorned the facades of numerous Home Savings banks in California. See a great one at 4650 Mission Bay Drive at Garnet Avenue. Largest mural was “Word of Life” (also known as “Touchdown Jesus”) on the Notre Dame campus, Indiana.

BETSY K. SCHULTZ muralist, artist, landscape designer; Del Mar,, (858) 692-6661. Nature-scape murals of all-original sculpted tiles and found objects. Visit Solana Beach Gateway Arches (pictured above) on Coast Highway, and Harbor Point Mural, 5055 N. Harbor Dr., among many.

* (Deceased)

TOP PHOTO: Gateway to a walking path along the Coast Highway at Villa de la Valle by Betsy K Schultz. Photo by Peter Jensen

This story is from the Fall 2018 issue of Hidden Leaves: Volume 5 Issue 2
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5 responses to “Breaking Into Beauty”

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