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Public Art on South Campus: University of Massachusetts Lowell

wall mosaic with chairs in the foreground

The long title of this work, "Semi-Abstract Mosaic Depicting Microscopic slides of cross-sectioned plant and cell life and the theoretical DNA,” befits its immense size. The mosaic spans the entire height of the atrium space and can be viewed from each floor level. The images here depict plants and cell life—a topic appropriate for Weed Hall where classes in the Life Sciences are generally taught. The images rely on abstract arrangements of color, line and shape. You can see a sun shining on a leaf (no doubt to produce chlorophyll), and segments of DNA. 

   abstract mosiac with sun face This work is in some ways very unusual for Robert Andrews. He gained a reputation in the 1960s as a mosaic iconographer for Greek orthodox churches. In 1963 he was invited to design the mosaics at Lowell’s Transfiguration of Our Savior Church which met with universal acclaim. By the 1970s he had designed mosaics for churches in San Francisco, Phoenix, Rochester, and Washington DC. These mosaics follow the traditions of Byzantine iconography—figures of Christ, Mary, and the saints occupy a spiritual realm and are identified through gestures and symbols. The Weed Hall mosaic, on the other hand, draws attention to the earthly realm and the activities of cell life. Although the documentation for the mosaic in Weed Hall has not been located, the commission probably came through Daniel O’Leary who served as president during the construction of Weed Hall and the other buildings of the quad on South Campus. 

abstract mosaic mural in shades o yellow orange grey blueMosaics require a very specialized technique—you can see on the plaque next to the mosaic that it was conceived by one artist, Robert J. Andrews, but made by another, Sebastian Musto. Mosaics are made by selecting individual pieces of colored stone (or glass in some cases) called tesserae and then placing them on a surface prepared with an adhesive, often a type of mortar.