Stephan Wanger Unmasked!

Stephan Wanger and me - Photo by Ericka Fischer

Stephan Wanger and me - Photo by Erica Fisher

I was always the clumsy kid that couldn’t draw a straight line in art class.  In High School during a Biology lab my teacher even watched me and said, “You have no manual dexterity.”  Even today when I filled out the form for my press pass at the New Orleans Police Department Headquarters the woman commented she couldn’t read my writing and I had to admit I have trouble reading it too.

So yesterday want I stopped by to check in with Stephan at Galeria Alegria and found myself being drawn into his studio and compelled to participate in an art class, I rather felt like a deer in the headlights must feel.

Stephan Wanger assisting students in his art class

Stephan Wanger assisting students in his art class

The class was on how to make your own mosaic Mardi Gras mask with Mardi Gras beads.

Stephan Wanger speaks on creativity and renovation in New Orleans

Stephan Wanger speaks on creativity and renovation in New Orleans

Stephan gave a little introduction on the basics of  making a Mardi Gras bead mask and then set everyone to it.

I felt totally out of my element (what is my element?  Probably hiding behind a camera is best!) but with Stephan’s encouragement I decided to give it a go.

I spent about 5 minutes looking at all the masks to see if any of them inspired me as I have seen my mother look at a shelf of more or less identical dolls and then pick one as her favorite.  My conclusion was that none of them got past my aversion to artistic endeavors and so decided to pick a yellow one as reds, blues, and purples would be my normal choices and since I was already out of my comfort zone I figured I should go all the way and choose a color that was out of my comfort zone.

I took comfort in knowing that purples are a good complement to yellow so I could start with purple beads and go from there.

As I worked on the mask I also thought about things that Stephan had said about how he got his start in making mosaics after Katrina.

While I can’t say the mask was a great work of art I did put a bit of a story into it.

Stephan Wanger and me in our masks - Photo by Erica Fisher

Stephan Wanger and me in our masks - Photo by Erica Fisher

The story reads from bottom to top as in the oriental style picture writing and can be read as follows:

In life we often take hard luck on the chin (3 Mardi Gras Dice beads below the mouth) but we put on a forced smile even while we are sad (tears coming from the eyes) and in our minds we sadly ask “Why?” (blue letter “Y” on forehead) but when we wrap these thoughts in love (red beads in the shape of a heart around the blue Y) we can create something beautiful even as we mourn our losses (much as Stephan takes discarded Mardi Gras beads and creates beautiful mosaics that honor the tragedies, trials, and triumphs of New Orleans.)

When I spoke with Stephan he humbly downplayed his creativity and talent, but anyone that has seen his work knows the truth of his artistry.

In my eyes he is more than an artist and I suspect that others saw beneath his mask that he is also a loving teacher with a passion for his adopted city, New Orleans.

So if you are in New Orleans on a Wednesday evening and want something fun and creative to do with a Master of Mosaics, Galeria Alegria is the place for you!

For more photos from the art class as Stephan Wanger’s Galeria Alegria see my photo album!


About the author

Weird AKA John Collins

John N. Collins is a writer, photographer, game & coloring book designer and a bad dancer. Any resemblance to the King John character is merely a coincidence. Follow John N. Collins: YouTube Facebook Fan Page Facebook Personal Account Instagram Twitter