Rochester, New York has always been a city of artists, from Maud Humphrey, suffragist and illustrator, to the creator of CatDog, Peter Hannan. Now, local artist Jill Gussow is receiving accolades for her work, being commissioned to create pieces for clients as far away as Australia. Gussow’s work can be seen around Rochester, creating memorable pieces out of once-simple store fronts.
Gussow began her art career as a painter and photographer before finding her forte with mosaics — images created by assembling glass or stone tiles to create a pattern or representational image. Mosaics are often used to create murals or other art, but lend themselves well to interior design as well. While glass tiles are the most popular choice, linoleum tiles come in a variety of colors and can be arranged to create beautiful mosaics on floors.
Gussow’s mosaics aren’t the only murals receiving attention lately. Michael Maglaras’s upcoming documentary “Enough to Live On: The Arts of the WPA” explores the art created for the Works Progress Administration during the Great Depression. While laborers built bridges and other structures, artists were commissioned to create sculptures and paintings for courthouses and post offices. The idea was that beautiful murals would lift the spirits of the citizens viewing them, offering an escape from the harsh reality of the Depression.
Two of the murals featured in Maglaras’ documentary were locally installed in Madison High School in 1937. One depicts construction workers in the process of building a skyscraper, while its companion piece has children reading and being taught, with a knight, ship and castle in the background. When Madison High School was demolished in 1980, the murals were relocated to the Wilson Foundation Academy.
“Enough to Live On: The Arts of the WPA” will premiere May 15th, at the New Britain Museum of Art in Connecticut, then go on to tour the nation through December. Examples of Jill Gussow’s work can be seen at the Natural Pet Food store on South Clinton Avenue and at the East End Garage.