By Kim Metzgar
Brother Mark Floreanini is a patient man. That could be said of anyone who completes an 18,000-piece jigsaw puzzle (it took four years). But his current project—albeit his off and on project for the past ten years—involves not just assembling pieces of a puzzle, but creating them. He’s working on a 12-foot high by 9-foot wide mosaic of the Annunciation, a tedious project that involves cutting stained glass scraps into quarter to half-inch shapes, arranging them on a board and then affixing them.
Last year he decided that it was time to finish the mosaic; however, he knew that without a change in his full-time teaching schedule, it would be impossible. Thus, he applied for a sabbatical for the fall 2022 semester. It was granted.
“Over the years I have had some time segments where I was able to cut and assemble several of the 30 segments that make up this very large piece of artwork,” he said. But “preparing for classes and creating artwork for examples of what we will be doing in the studio the following semester takes up a lot of time and this project has fallen by the wayside.”
Now, he is ensconced in his Carey Center office on a regular schedule—with breaks for prayer and meals—with his bins of recycled glass, selecting and cutting each piece. The mosaic, when completed, will be comprised of 30 panels—six rows and five columns. Each square is 24 inches by 24 inches and he estimates about 600 pieces per square. That would amount to about 72,000 pieces, or four times the number in his jigsaw puzzle. But unlike the puzzle with its pre-cut pieces, Brother Mark is shaping each piece by hand according to his design.
The mosaic is presently about one-third complete.
“In the past I would finish one section in about a month but this was working in my free time,” Brother Mark said. “I hope to at least double this and intend to finish 8 to 10 sections by the end of the sabbatical.
“When I began the mosaic,” he said, “I made small jig boards that allowed me and others to quickly and efficiently cut the scraps of stained glass into small squares. In my free time I would cut buckets of scrap glass into these small sizes and separate them into colors. At present I have over 200 pounds of this glass cut up ready to be used.”
The five sections of the bottom row are finished and almost two blocks on the next row up are done. Brother Mark also did Angel Gabriel’s head (photo at top, left) on the third row from the bottom.
His vision of the mosaic is based on a painting by Renaissance painter Fra Angelico (1395-1455), who adorned the Dominican friary where he lived in San Marco, Italy, with frescoes. Fra Angelico painted several scenes of The Annunciation during his lifetime, and his works are scattered throughout the world in well-known museums and galleries. Brother Mark’s mosaic would create a counterpart of Fra Angelico’s painting, while incorporating elements from Brother Mark’s vision.
“I changed most of the key elements in the painting and added a view of the Basilica from the central window,” Brother Mark said.
“My interest in using the discarded scrap glass in doing mosaic work has persisted for years. I did an experimental project while working on my MFA at Savannah College of Art and Design. It was a portrait of Christ (below) which was well received.”
Brother Mark began teaching here at Saint Vincent in 2005 and has taught the past 32 semesters without a sabbatical or course reduction. Brother Mark is from Alliance, Ohio, and graduated from West Branch High School, Beloit, Ohio. He received an associate degree in fine art from Sinclair Community College in 1987. He earned a bachelor’s degree in studio art from Saint Vincent College in 2001, a master of arts degree from Saint Vincent Seminary in 2003, and a master of fine arts degree from the Savannah College of Arts and Design in 2005. He made his simple profession of vows in 1998, and solemn profession of vows in 2001.
In addition to various roles at the Archabbey, Brother Mark founded Archabbey Stained Glass and creates stained glass windows, paints, and does various other forms of art, including pottery mugs, yarn bowls, spinning wool and crocheting.
The mosaic will become a lasting fixture on campus when it is installed on campus at a location to be determined.
“There is a lot of open space that could be enriched with this colorful art piece,” he said. “In addition to attracting attention to Saint Vincent, it will demonstrate that our Art Department does some large artwork installations. The traditional religious theme will also speak to our Benedictine values as a Catholic Institution.”