Not so long ago, when it seemed no one had nice things to say about Detroit (Remember?), and before deep pocket investors rolled into town, mosaic artist Darcel Deneau saw beyond the growing blight, and began using her skills to create colorful representations of the city’s long overlooked landscapes with pieces of glass and “unexpected objects.”
“I’m passionate about the landscapes,” she said. “That’s been the subject of my work several years. I enjoy creating images of the city to show its vibrancy. I started because everybody wasn’t saying nice things about Detroit. I wanted to show the positive, and add more vibrancy with cars and a lot of businesses, and I like putting dashes of unexpected color in the pieces.” She’s created 10 small landscapes of the city.
A former resident of Novi, who moved to Detroit’s booming Midtown area this past spring, Deneau began creating mosaic art about seven years ago, however, she describes herself as being “more a painter,” which explains her approach to mosaic art. Seeing it from the eye of a painter, she basically applies her same signature style — urban “impressionistic” with bright bold colors.
“I kind of use the glass as a way of painting. I glue the glass down in little dabs, that look like a dab of paint. The result is that it (the finished piece) looks very much like a painting,” explained Deneau, who’s also been painting, primarily, Detroit landscapes since around 2000. Over the past few years, she’s gotten “more and more into mosaic,” using it as another medium for showcasing cityscapes in Detroit.
Deneau, 51, acquired her impressive skills by taking a couple workshops with a mosaic art friend. “One was in Mexico around 2010,” she said. “And, then locally, I had a couple mosaic art workshops at the Birmingham Bloomfield Art Center. And, my friend has also organized a few workshops in her home. She has a studio in her home, and has brought in mosaic artists who teach workshops.”
Deneau says her love of mosaic art is derived from being able to create an image with the “richness” that glass brings to a piece. “I use a little bit of dichroic glass, and I put unexpected objects in it. It’s kind of like building. I might put like a bottle cap, a rusted screw or watch face in a piece.” She also likes the “challenge of trying to create shapes in glass,” despite the fact that she has less control than with oil paint.
Her attention to detail is evident, and she’s very good at using glass to create a three-dimensional effect, which can take hours to achieve, depending on size. “One piece took me over three years to complete,” she stated. “It’s big: 68 inches wide by 48 inches tall. I, initially, did the same (as a) painting. The painting sold, so I decided to make a mosaic of that same image. I took a photo of the painting I had made and traced it onto a board.”
Deneau, an honorary board member of the Detroit Artists Market, and alumni council member of College for Creative Studies, sells her work a number of ways — through art galleries, consultants, corporate art placement, her studio at the Russell Industrial Center in Detroit, and the Ann Arbor Art Center. Pieces are, generally, priced from $600-$2,000 each.
Individual art collectors, of all ages, make up the majority of her customer base. She also said, “A lot of my work is really popular for corporate because it’s very nonconfrontational.” Among commissions she’s received are the 28th Detroit International Jazz Festival poster artwork, a large-scale Detroit landscape for the Hudson Webber Foundation, and working with well-known restaurant designer Ron Rea on a 29- by 7-foot mural for Garage Grill and Fuel Bar in Northville. Other customers have included the University of Michigan, Carhartt, and Mack Avenue Records.
One of Deneau’s more recent cityscape mosaics is a lively depiction of a Detroit QLine streetcar on Woodward. You can almost hear the horn blowing! She said, “I was excited about the new QLine since I’d just moved to Detroit, and it seemed like a symbol of the (city’s) progress when I saw that train!”
Detroit News Columnist Jocelynn Brown is a longtime Metro Detroit crafter. You can reach her at (313) 222-2150, email@example.com or facebook.com/DetroitNewsHandmade.
Contact Darcel Deneau at (248) 613-8876 or darceldeneau.com. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.