Tiny windows into her soul

Artist debuts at Valley Stream library


There’s a lot more to creating a mosaic piece of art than simply gluing down pieces of glass, Helene LaRossa Harris will tell you. It’s a detailed process which can requires weeks or even months just to finish one piece.

Harris, who has lived in Valley Stream for 59 years, has her work on display at the Henry Waldinger Memorial Library through the end of May. The 10 pieces fill two display cases in the adult room.

While all her work is done in a mosaic style, the subjects of the pieces are diverse. There is a portrait of her dog, another of her children, as well as landscapes and patterns. They range in size from an 8-inch by 8-inch frame, to a reproduction of a poster almost three feet high.

As early as her elementary days at Brooklyn Avenue School, Harris has been a fan of mosaic-style art, whether it was gluing elbow macaroni to construction paper or making a trivet from small tiles. About five years ago, she picked up where she left off as a child, and made a serious commitment to the hobby, regularly renting time at an art studio in Manhattan.

“Less than hour, door to door I’m there,” she said, adding that the professional artists she trained with at the Unicorn Art Studio were very encouraging and inspirational.

Years ago, Harris never would have called herself an artist, but today she does. When she is working on her projects, it puts her mind at ease. “You can’t think about the grocery list, or picking up the kids, or do I have cat food in the house,” she said. “It pushes it all away.”

That is because the process to creating a mosaic piece of art required focus and attention to detail. Cutting the glass is an extremely technical process and Harris said it could take 10 or 20 tries to get the size and shape of the piece just right.

In the beginning, Harris primarily used larger, squared-off pieces of glass, but as her skills progressed, she began to cut tinier shards with a lot of curves and narrow points. That’s how she created “Trevor,” a portrait of her dog which she calls her favorite piece.

There is a lot of thought that goes into creating a mosaic, she said. The color grout between the tiles can greatly affect the final product, Harris explained, so it is important to choose carefully.

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