Telltale Tiles Exhibition Catalog

Inspiration for the Exhibition
“Tell-Tale Tiles & Fractured Fantasies” was inspired by the rich history of tile and mosaic art in the Philadelphia area over the past 100 years. The online catalog is available for review and can be printed.
Description of the Exhibition
In 1898, archeologist Henry Chapman Mercer began to make ceramic tiles in Doylestown, north of Philadelphia. Mercer is considered pivotal in America’s embrace of the Arts and Crafts movement. He said in 1925, “This so-called ‘literary’ side of the craft, this storytelling… has been my primary impulse or inspiration... But if tiles could tell no story, inspire or teach nobody, and only serve to produce aesthetic thrills, I would have stopped making them long ago.” Many local and national tile makers today owe their understanding of the craft to his legacy, preserved for perpetuity at the Moravian Pottery and Tile Works and at Mercer’s former residence, Fonthill, now a museum.
Similarly, Isaiah Zagar, a nationally acknowledged master of mosaic, has forever changed Philadelphia’s public façades with his 40+ years of ceramic and glass mosaic work, capturing neighborhood stories and adding a sense of community into a once run-down urban landscape. Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens was formed as a museum to preserve and embrace Zagar’s legacy of community beautification through his relentless mosaic work. He continues to revitalize forgotten spaces with monthly public workshops, capturing community-reflective stories in the mosaics that clad over 100 city walls.

“Tell-Tale Tiles & Fractured Fantasies” explored contemporary tile making and ceramic mosaic as a story-telling medium in the spirit of artists Henry Chapman Mercer and Isaiah Zagar. The scope of the exhibition was broadened to include social, political, personal and family stories.
The exhibition was co-presented by Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens (PMG) and the Tile Heritage Foundation (THF).
The exhibition was held at Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens, 1020-1026 South Street, Isaiah Zagar’s enormous mosaic labyrinth. The venue provided a space for tile and mosaic artists from around the country and abroad to make powerful statements in their medium that were socially meaningful to both themselves and the community.