A quick glance at one of Kevin Champeny’s large-format mosaics will reveal a beautiful, often playful image—an elegant rose, a detailed skull, or a colorful fish, for example. But a closer look reveals the true artistry of the work, as colors turn into hundreds or even thousands of tiny hand-sculpted items, chosen based on their relationship to the larger image.
Champeny is interested in the relationship between his work and the viewer: "I want people to talk about what these pieces mean to them and how their own experiences make sense of the choices I made when creating the work,” he told mental_floss. The self-labeled "organized hoarder" keeps literally hundreds of thousands of tiny sculpted pieces in his Westchester studio, where they also serve as inspiration for new ideas. Enjoy some of Champeny’s work below, and check out his tumblr and Facebook pages for the complete collection.
1. What Remains
This 60-inch wide by 48-inch tall and 1-inch deep piece is made of 35,000-plus hand cast urethane flowers.
After a skull was then chosen to be the subject, I photographed a skull and printed it out on a large format printer and visually broke down the colors to about 40-plus to work with. I hand sculpted 30 different flowers as the pixels for the skull. I then molded and cast the flowers in color (nothing is painted) in various forms of resin. It took over 35,000 castings to create "What Remains". The flowers were then painstakingly glued on by hand to create the final piece. Each mosaic can take up to several months to complete from concept of idea to finished art.
2. Sweet Death
More than 33,000 individually hand cast urethane pieces of candy make up this piece, which is 66 inches wide by 66 inches tall and 1.5 inches deep.
This my homage to 'Día de Muertos' or the Day of the Dead. I captured the beauty of the intricately designed sugar skulls commonly found around this holiday with a tattoo styled design created entirely of candy, taking the idea of a sugar skull to a completely new level.
3. A Rose By Any Other Name
This piece is 51 inches long, 41 inches tall, and 1.5 inches deep, and is made of more than 15,000 individually hand cast urethane pieces of candy.
What could be sweeter than giving flowers? Candy? A flower made out of candy with a title alluding to Romeo and Juliet? Yes, all of these. This cloyingly sweet rose is a perfect example of how far you can take a theme before it just about implodes. Had I actually made it from real candy, well, that would have been going too far. Or would it?
4. School of Transcendence
Champeny hand-cast 25,000 fish to create this 42-inch long by 60-inch tall and 1.5-inch deep piece.
I created this particular piece with all of the left over castings I had from learning how to cast urethane. It was a very cathartic piece, utilizing castings that I'd accumulated over about 15 years. Finishing this mosaic closed a chapter on a very long process that helped me get to the point where I am now in my career.
5. Hot Wheels
This Hot Wheels piece is made of 4400 tiny cars and weighs 550 pounds. It's 9 feet wide, 4 feet tall, and 3 inches deep.
This is perhaps the most fun I have had creating a mosaic. This custom beauty was created for a car enthusiast and allowed me to get in touch with the joy I had as a child playing with Hot Wheels in the driveway. It took me several months just to acquire the nearly 5000 Hot Wheels needed to make this and another month to build the finished mosaic.
This American Flag piece is made of 44,450 hand cast urethane army men; it measures 72 inches wide by 48 inches tall and 1 inch deep.
I created the Flag mosaic as a direct commission through Jellio for the U.S. Army Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center (TARDEC), in Michigan. I was only given 30 days to hand cast—they are cast in color, nothing is painted—and apply all 44,500 soldiers. It was exhausting but well worth it. It remains to this day, the mosaic that I have been the most proud to complete.
All photos courtesy of Kevin Champeny.