PHILADELPHIA, PA.- In the vibrant, bohemian neighborhood of South Philadelphia, 50,000-square feet of concrete are covered with tile and mirrorsmosaics that were created by Isaiah Zagar, an eccentric, tormented artist. The murals chronicle his love for his wife, Julia, and subtly hint at the darker corners of an extraordinary imagination.
Where Isaiah is obsessive and narcissistica former Peace Corps volunteer who has become an icon in South Philly's art communityJulia is gracious and warm. For decades, their opposing natures complemented one another perfectly. But suddenly the family is torn apart at the seams: A few hours before picking up his oldest son from a rehabilitation center, Isaiah declares to the camera, "As people get older they have less and less passion." He then confesses to an affair with his assistant, is kicked out of the house, and spirals into a debilitating, suicidal depression.
A fascinating portrait of love and betrayal, family bonds, and the intimacy of dysfunction. Shot on 35mm, Hi Def, digital video; with 8mm and 16mm home movie footage. The soundtrack features music by the Books, Explosions in the Sky, Efterklang, and Kelli Scarr.
Isaiah Zagar is an American tile mosaic artist. Zagar holds a BA in Painting and Graphics from the Pratt Institute of Art. His awards include an NREA Fellowship in 1979 and a Pew Charitable Trust Individual Artist Fellowship Grant in 1995. Zagar was artist-in-residence in Tianjin, China in 1987, at the John Michael Kohler Arts/Industry Program in Sheboygan, Wisconsin in 2001 and in Delhi and Bagru, Rajistan in 2003.
Zagar has executed numerous public commissions in his quest to transform the city of Philadelphia, PA into a labyrinthine mosaic museum. They include the South Street Community Garden exterior mosaic wall in 1992, three story exterior mosaic facades at 610 S. 10th Street in 1994, the entrance to The Clay Studio at 139 N. 4th Street in 1997, the complete exterior of the Painted Bride Art Center at 230 Vine Street, completed in 1999, and an exterior mosaic mural at Lombard and Jessup Street in 2003, to name but a few.
Philadelphia's Magic Garden has been a work-in-progress since 1994, and as of 2005 is supported by a non-profit foundation whose aim is the preservation and education of Isaiah's donations to the landscape of Philadelphia.
Julia Zagar was born in New York City a long time ago. In New York she was educated at the high school of Music and Art, Cooper Union Art School and The Art students League. In 1962 she began her love affair with Latin America; first in Mexico at the Universidad de las Americas and then with her husband in the Peace Corps from 1964-1967 in Peru. There they worked in craft development, product design and small industry growth.
The Zagars continued those same interests back in the U.S. with the opening of the Eyes Gallery in 1968 on South Street in Philadelphia. The Eyes Gallery has been in existence for 38 years and has led them into many projects; community building development, fighting the Cross Town Expressway and community garden works to name a few.
In 1997, Julia began Art and Soul Tours to bring Americans to experience the cultures of Mexico, Peru and India. As a group, Art and Soul Tours has aided Latin American Museums, Cooperatives and individual artisans. In February of 2008, she gave an eight part lecture on Mexican Folk Art during the Frida exhibit at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
She has two sons, two grandsons and a wonderful husband who has devoted his work life to mosaics in the South Street area and now around the US and even internationally.