Known to insiders as the “Fridge Queen”, we caught
up with mosaic artist Mo Ringey. Her moniker is as captivating as
her inimitable mosaics. So just who is this mosaic artist?
Here, Mo speaks with Earth,
Wind & Tiles about her unique style of creating mosaics using
smashed hand-stained tempered glass.
One night in my studio I was
thinking aloud over wine with friends, and I announced that I was
going to "reupholster" a fridge in smashed glass. Immediately the
project took on a life of its own. After searching dumps and flea
markets and the papers for weeks, I finally found the perfect
fridge right in the studio where I was subletting a space. It was
waiting for me. Within weeks of that I was offered a larger studio
in a high traffic area, and the fridge project flourished. I think
the fridge got me the new space.
People stopped in regularly to watch its
progress. A few strangers even dropped in, having heard of it. The
fridge project became my identity for a bit. For a time, wherever
I went, conversations were about the fridge. People seemed
incredulous that I was serious about it. Then, when finished, it
got itself invited to a number of galleries without my even
lending a hand in that effort. It has quite a spirit.
I have met people who, after I tell them that
I work in smashed glass and objects, say, "Oh! Are you the 'fridge
queen'?" so I guess I am! It was a "que sera, sera"
At one show the original owners of the fridge
came by and recognized it as the one they had abandoned in our
building years ago. It was a joyful reunion. We have relationships
with our appliances. We just don't consciously realize this. These
are not the relationships which perplex and confound us and that
we discuss with our therapists. ;-) This is the dialogue of
everyday life, for even the most alternative of us has a domestic
life that we share with our things. The fridge is an homage to
domesticity, change, art, and redirected
I understand that you
originally studied general arts and later became involved in the web
industry only to pursue mosaic art instead. How did you first become
interested in creating mosaics?
I have always studied
art in a random and meandering way. I have taken classes in many
mediums and places from university to the present. I am still
taking classes, and I still paint.
For my "real" job, however, I worked as a
designer, first print and then web. When I got home from work most
nights though, I immediately changed into my overalls and started
painting and sculpting. I smashed wine bottles and made
sculptures. I also painted televisions. People would see that I
had no TV in my apartment and would bring me one thinking I must
need one. So I'd just paint them because they were not
aesthetically pleasing to me. And someone else would come by and
love the new TV, and I'd give it to them because I don't watch TV.
Or people would give me old wineglasses, so I'd paint them and
then at dinner someone would fall in love with them, and I'd give
those away. I was an accidental recycler of objects from way back.
One day I found my car window smashed outside
my apartment in Boston, and the pile of glass glittering in the
sun was so stunning that I picked it all up and took it up to my
apartment to experiment with. I was so fascinated with the glass
that I forgot to move my car to a secure garage. Leaving my car
with an open smashed window all night apparently tempted some
opportunist to come by and take my car stereo. I didn't
I didn't really
think of myself as a mosaic artist. But it seems that is the
category my work falls into, it being an additive process and all
that. And so it is. Sometimes life takes its own
Many artists are inspired by others’ work. Are
there any artists—mosaic or otherwise—whose artwork has influenced
Kandinsky, Monet, Picasso, and Van Gogh are
among my favorites as well as Marcel Duchamp, Gustav Klimt, Isamu
Noguchi, and Paul Klee.
A lot of these
artists, like Klimt, have elements to their work which are about
pieces of a whole, reminiscent of a mosaic process perhaps.
Duchamp is all about objects and humor and unconventional media
and readymade objects that cause thought on the part of the
viewer. Noguchi is about the perception of space and the continuum
of existence. This is how I feel about objects: memory transformed
into repurposed sculptural works that captivate and perplex.
Fridge as curio cabinet lined with flocking like a jewelry box;
memory as precious, tangible, impossibly big, and impractical yet
I learned more about mosaic art only after I
accidentally began making mosaics. I am moved by the mosaics of
Ravenna. They are about history and extraordinary craftsmanship
Your pieces usually consist of a base layer of plate
glass on which you adhere a layer of hand-stained tempered glass.
How did you arrive at your present manner of working? Was it an
evolutionary process or did you wake up one day and say, “Eureka!
I’m going to stain glass inch by inch with eyedroppers and smash it
to bits and then glue them all onto another piece of glass”?
It started with
whoever now owns my old car stereo, smashing the glass for me. I
then took a trip to my art supply store and found some glass
stains and started the process of staining. It took a while to get
the process to where it is now. In the early days I went through a
lot of bandages. Now I have a relationship with the glass and find
I can handle it without getting cut. It's like I relate to and
respect the glass. I see habits and patterns in the smashed sheets
and feel a familiarity that is the result of past
Tempered glass smashes into predictable
shapes and certain shard types, some of which are like tiny apple
cores that are barely visible and cut you so you really bleed. I
learned to work with jewelry pliers to handle these pieces and to
wear respirators when I stain. I wear shark-feeding gloves from a
marine supply outfit in Seattle that come up my whole arm and are
impenetrable because I use an optically clear adhesive that is an
acrylated urethane and is very dangerous. I learned just how
dangerous when I had to be taken to the local ER and then spent
months with bandaged fingers and prescriptions for steroids. The
question I am most often asked by other mosaic artists is, "What
do you use for adhesive?" and then I feel compelled to warn them
that this stuff penetrates nitrile, vinyl, and just about every
other safety glove.
So please explain
why you so unceremoniously smash the glass that you’ve just spent so
many hours lovingly staining.
actually rather ceremonious. People always want to watch this
part. And there's a good bit of preparation. I have to wrap the
glass in canvas yet let one corner peek out for hammer-on-glass
contact. I have to wear gloves and safety glasses and weigh down
the edges so that the canvas doesn't fly up (the glass explodes
sideways when it is smashed). Then the glass may smash on the
first tap or it may take dozens of taps. It seems to have stage
fright in that when a crowd gathers, it won't smash. And no matter
how many pieces I smash I still do an involuntary jump and shout
each time it explodes. So between the suiting up, wrapping of the
glass, the spectators, and the involuntary jig at the point of
explosion, it's rather ceremonious. I'd like to have mimes passing
hors d'oeuvres and a champagne fountain for the next smashing.
Maybe also opera music and police blowing whistles and floor
Curiosity prompts me to
ask what made you choose functional items such as old refrigerators
and diner stools to mosaic. How have these pieces been received by
art galleries and by the public?
Our objects and
furniture have a domestic language all their own. And we interact
with them in a language of our own, of which we are unaware. These
things also serve as bookmarks to certain places and times in our
past, much as a song or a photograph. Completely changing the
aesthetics and function of an old fridge from something you might
see abandoned at the dump with its door torn off into a glittering
and beautiful curio cabinet surprises the viewer. And most often
surprises are happy and inspiring things.
And the fridge is
always well received. People circle it, open and close the door
(old fridges make the most magnificent noise as they click open
and shut. It's almost regal!), and touch the flocking inside and
open the flocked freezer door.
The diner stools
have been wet sanded with diamond pads and are perfectly smooth so
you can sit on them and spin around. I started with a 50 grit pad
and methodically worked my way up to 3000 grit. Although
I will never tackle a project like that again--I spent 5 nights on
the back loading dock wearing a hefty bag, safety goggles, and
fighting with a 13 pound [5.9 kg] piece of handheld equipment
spewing water, trying to control its course over curved surfaces.
I'll never spray flock again either. The tiny particles got
through my respirator. So some of these pieces are truly one of a
So this leads to me your
upcoming events, the first of which is that of Artist-in-Residence
at The Art Complex Museum in Duxbury, MA. What will you be creating
there that people will be able to come and watch?
I plan to create a
piece as a gift to the museum. I haven't actually "seen" it yet. I
need to "see" a project before I can begin. Sometimes I see it in
a dream or in a painting. It will have to be something I can start
and finish in one month, so there's a challenge. And since it is
to be a museum piece, it has to be exciting and flawless. I'd also
like to make it touchable. I always want to touch art myself, so
I'd like to be able to make art that others can touch. I will host
a reception at the end for the public to come and view my gift to
Thank you, Mo, for your time and for allowing us to
present your amazing creations to our readers!
Below are some of Mo’s upcoming shows.
For more information, check out her website http://www.fridgequeen.com/.
May 26-June 30, 2005
Complex Museum, Artist-in-residence
Duxbury, Massachusetts (USA)
Open Wed-Sun, 1-4
Tel. +1 (781) 934-6634
Mo will be working in the first
floor studio during museum hours on display for the public to come
and watch. She will be creating a piece as a permanent gift to the
museum, and there will be a reception for the public once it is
July 5-30, 2005
142 Main Street
Northampton, Massachusetts (USA)
+1 (413) 585-1644
This is a 3 artist show titled "Kaleidoscope". The opening
reception is July 8.
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