May 20, 2008
“During the latter part of the 20th and early part of the 21st century, Philadelphia had an efflorescence of art and culture unsurpassed in any other time in human history. And since my name is derived from a prophet, I had the courage to follow my bliss” – Isaiah Zagar
Although he might not have a household name, his work is unforgettable. It’s next to impossible to describe the Magic Garden on 1022 South St to a tourist. What is it? Well! it was a parking lot… that was transformed into a mosaic garden filled with bicycle wheels, empty beer bottles, and broken glass… all trying to tell a story about one’s artists life and his work… um… yeah.
You have to see it to believe it, and don’t forget to bring the camera. Despite the many time I found myself riding or walking by, I never once considered going inside. It never occurred to me that it would be open to the public, and instead I always gazed through the gate wondering what was hidden within.
When the Philadelphia Film Festival chose to screen “In a Dream”- a film about Isaiah, his family and his art, it was about time for me to step inside. To say that the magic garden is filled with mosaics is not to be taken lightly. Even the washrooms are representation of his work.
Since 1994, Isaiah has spent many a day creating, transforming, and then displaying the work that gives him both inspiration and peace.
No work of art is ever easy to create and having spent the afternoon with Isaiah, I can attest to that. After creating a variety of tiles using doilies, he cleans them, administers a glaze, liquid glass, and then fuses the tiles with ceramics, which have been removed from a temperature as high as 2,000 degrees from a kiln oven.
Just head to the Eye’s Gallery (Julia’s art gallery) on 402 South Street and look at their ceiling, he couldn’t possibly put anymore pieces on that wall. And one could make the same argument about the Magic Garden, but only Isaiah knows when his work will be finished. But to us, it is “complete and perfect.” So if you’ve never seen his work or, like me, had only seen the outside of his garden, take your imagination and multiply that by a million and don’t forget to bring your camera.
And btw, his film “In a Dream” sold out an unprecedented four times and it may be distributed nationwide.