Oct 11 2016

For more than a decade, Mary Topogna had a shop on NE Killingsworth in Portland called Hail Mary. It was a local institution in the neighborhood. A 2011 article in Portland Monthly said:

With her mosaics, Tapogna makes magic of the discarded bits of everyday items that the rest of us would toss in the trash. For instance, broken plates and cups, like the pieces I sweep up in my kitchen periodically, one of my foibles being a propensity to break my favorite china and glassware (not on purpose). I should drop them off at Hail Mary.

Tapogna says that in fact, she has received offerings of broken ceramic and glass left anonymously outside her store's front door. Her mosaics also include unexpected well-used objects like bottle caps, Yankees pins, smiley faces, plastic alphabet magnets, and bits of soda can labels, always used with a deft and whimsical touch.

Due to rising costs and expansion, Mary was forced to close up shop in 2015. But she continues to create, display and sell her artwork. Her beautiful mosaics and light fixtures at the Kennedy School and the Gearhart Hotel, as well as at Fire on the Mountain, Dot's Café, Kenton Station on the light rail line, and now, Old St. Francis School.

Below is the write-up she did for the room we named after her in the Art House in Bend.

from the Letters to Lois series

My piece is a present day (2016) version/replica of my mixed media mosaic piece that I created in 1997 for McMenamins Kennedy School in Portland. It features a poem from my Letters to Lois series, which was originally crafted from photocopied pages of a 1930s yearbook belonging to a Kennedy School student. This poem is probably my favorite of all.

The overall piece is made from assorted materials . . . glass, mirror, ceramic, metal, shells, jewels, plastic and so on . . . It includes two clay pieces (a star and a pine tree) from potter Dan Ennis, a neighborhood artist who attended Kennedy School as a kid. I used some of his tiles in my Kennedy School homage piece to Dan's school teacher, Dora Gebers.

While I've been creating mosaic human portraits for years, this is one of the few animal portraits that I've made. I think I am on to something! This sweet pig portrait features a pink "L" tile . . . L for Lois.

There's a small homage to "The Man," St. Francis, the patron saint of animals. And I've also included white hexagon tiles here and there, as they are featured in the original piece.

About the Artist
Born and raised in Springfield, Ohio, I am the eighth of nine siblings. I attended art school at The University of Cincinnati (graphic design) and graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Photography from the Art Academy of Cincinnati.

Upon moving to Portland, Oregon, in 1990, I worked as a freelance photographer, mainly for The Oregonian newspaper. Coming directly from art school and working as a photojournalist was educational and enlightening. I gradually began to dabble with the mosaic art medium. I was soon having exhibits and undertaking large- and small-scale commissioned projects.

This led to the opening of the brick-and-mortar Hail Mary. A storefront/gallery/studio, Hail Mary was an arts and community fixture in Portland for 12 years. Community and my personal projects were born and executed there. Locals and travelers, from far and wide, deemed it a very special destination.

My mosaic work covers a range of sometimes religious and secular portraits, crosses, rosaries, tables, lamps and so on. The portraits are fabricated using various accumulated materials, images, and layering. Working mostly from my photographic images and drawings, the portraits are made from found and recycled materials gathered from my everyday surroundings.

The work can take weeks to months to complete, depending upon size and the challenge of the project. Traditional mosaics that utilize many tiny pieces of glass and tile are inspirational to me. I honor the traditional art form by striving for the same tedious intricacy, while incorporating contemporary unorthodox materials and subject matter.

My work is popping up around the globe in many public and private collections and spaces.

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