Sherman Gardens Opens Summer ‘Inspired by Nature’ Mosaic Art Exhibit

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Irina Charny sees a new masterpiece waiting for her when she observes a woman in a floral dress, a colorful bouquet or a butterfly landing on a leaf.

Sometimes the mosaic artist’s imagination is sparked by something as simple as finding a rock on the beach that she really likes and decides, on the spot, to create an entire room around it.

It’s no surprise, then, that his exhibit at the Sherman Library & Gardens in Corona del Mar is titled “Inspired by Nature.”

The Gardens Summer Art Exhibition opened on Tuesday and will remain on display until September 21. Visiting the exhibition is free with entry to the garden, and the mosaics are available for purchase, with 20% of sales benefiting the gardens.

Charny confirmed that she made several of the more than 45 works on display especially for the show, including a mosaic butterfly with a 6-foot wingspan.

Mosaic artist Irina Charny poses in front of one of her mosaics on display at the Sherman Library & Gardens.

(Courtesy of Sherman Library and Gardens)

“Irina’s love for plants and nature informs her work, making her the perfect fit for this year’s summer art exhibit,” executive director Scott LaFleur said in a statement. “Guests will especially enjoy posing for [pictures] in front of huge mosaic butterfly wings that Irina created exclusively for Sherman Library & Gardens.

Charny’s works vary in size and scale, although she has stated that the vast majority of them are around 3 to 4 feet high and 2 feet wide. The smaller ones are sold in the gardens gift shop.

Some of the eye-catching pieces scattered around the garden incorporate materials like glass, porcelain, shells, mirrors and beads.

“It’s anything but the kitchen sink,” Charny joked. “If I could fit the kitchen sink, I probably would, but it’s a bit heavy.”

Charny said she was self-taught, having learned the art of mosaic after her chimney fell when she lived in Pasadena during the 1991 Sierra Madre earthquake. She said she saw a fireplace in a mosaic magazine and thought she wanted to try it herself.

So she did, and now she works on mosaics full time.

'Cocons & Enormous Butterfly Wings' by mosaicist Irina Charny.

“Cocoons & Enormous Butterfly Wings”, by mosaic artist Irina Charny for the exhibition “Inspired by Nature” at the Sherman Library & Gardens.

(Kevin Chang / personal photographer)

Irvine-based Charny said Sherman Gardens site manager Beverly Morgan contacted her in November. She said she met Morgan before the pandemic and stayed in touch.

“When everything started opening up post COVID, Beverly reached out and said, ‘We have a summer art exhibit. Are you interested?’ and I was over the moon at the idea because [the gardens] are such a beautiful backdrop for the mosaics,” Charny said.

“I always like to look at works of art, and it’s good to go to a museum, but to find them in a surprising place, you have to go and see a botanical garden,” Charny said. “You don’t expect an art exhibition; it’s a big surprise. I hope people will be pleasantly surprised and enjoy watching it.

“I’m always excited to introduce people to this art form. On the one hand, everyone knows the word “mosaics”, but few people have encountered it as an actual art form. I’m very excited for people to see what mosaic art looks like.

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