“He runs through the forest; breathing life into all that he can Whispering to the trees, he’s known as the Green Man. Passing on his vibrant energy, to all living things, green”-
The Green Man, By Joanne Kavanagh
By Amanda Hurley
Thirty-five artists, many from the Malden-Melrose area, have come together to create a mosaic that celebrates our connection to the natural world. Spearheaded by Melrose artist Lisa Tiemann, the 5-foot by 5-foot mosaic, featuring the mythical Green Man, will be installed at Cedar Park in Melrose; the mosaic itself is a donation from the artists, while the wall and installation will be made possible through grants and private donors.
“Green Man is largely taken to represent the human being as one with nature,” says Tiemann, noting that his face is often depicted as being “part plant, part animal.” So, she believes, it was the perfect choice for a nature-themed community project, which started two years ago as a 70th birthday present to herself.
Green Man, whose eyes peer out among colorful vegetation, will watch over all who stroll through Cedar Park, providing enjoyment and “increasing consciousness about our relationship to the environment,” Tiemann says. The face of Green Man is surrounded by 57 individual panels created by volunteers.
Tiemann explored various locations in Malden and Melrose before settling on Cedar Park. “I considered Pine Banks, and that would have been ideal because it was both Malden and Melrose, but it also felt very isolated,” says Tiemann, adding that, around the same time, Melrose Wayfinding and Creative Placemaking Initiative was soliciting proposals for public art. “I applied, letting them know we had intended to donate the mosaic at no cost but were requesting funding to cover costs of its installation. Wayfinding granted the initial $1,000 toward installation,” Tiemann said.
“When the Cedar Park location was determined, it meant that we would also have to build a wall to house the panel. That led to additional fundraising,” explains Tiemann, who would receive support from the Melrose Messina Fund for the Arts, Melrose Arts and private donors; including Robert DeLena, Joan Schloss DeLena, Laurine Kohler, Forrest Tiedeman, and Barbara Tiemann. Currently the freestanding wall is being built to hold and display Green Man, and though there is no firm date for the installation, Tiemann hopes to have it done before the ground freezes.
Melrose artist, dancer, and nature lover, Lisa Tiemann, has created hundreds of commissions over the years, including another Melrose mosaic project, the Turtle Stepping Stones at Ell Pond. Additionally, Tiemann designs, produces and sells original works of art in stained glass, stone, mosaic and paints, and teaches various classes and workshops. She especially enjoys the mosaic form.
“Mosaic has echoes of ancient architectural arts, examples of which still exist today. It recycles scraps of material that might otherwise be too small to be useful. To borrow from the title of a book by environmental scientist and mosaicist Terry Tempest Williams, it is about Finding Beauty in a Broken World.” Tiemann writes in her project description.
Nine Malden residents participated in the Green Man project. The Rose family, Anne D’Urso Rose, who is also the Associate Director at MATV/UMA and coordinates Malden’s Neighborhood View, Steve Rose, and their daughter Sarah Rose, all worked on panels.
Couple Belle Casale and Adam Choquette were involved early in the process. “My fiance Adam, and I, also acted as Lisa’s casting consultants for the life-like Green Man’s face, the central portion of the mosaic,” says Casale, who also created 3 panels.
“I was honored to be asked to participate and allowed to keep creating tiles. I found the project creative, fun and engrossing and loved learning a new media and way to express creatively,” says Husak.
Emily Van Heukelom, who grew up in Malden, also worked on the panels as an artist.
“Richard did a lot of hand-holding and heavy lifting. The panel weighs around 140 pounds,” Tiemann says of her husband, Richard Chase, a Melrose resident.
Tiemann’s out-of-town family members have also helped. Barbara Tiemann, of Malden, currently residing in Watertown, and Johanna Tiemann and Tiemann’s nephew, Yandell, arrived together from New York.
Two established Melrose artists contributed to the panels and assisted in the grouting process; photographer Michelle Boulogne, and fellow mosaic artist Catalina Moreno– who also assisted Tiemann in finding the location for Green Man.
Tiemann loves how mosaic art is accessible at almost any age. “Its simplicity and freedom make it possible for anyone to achieve a pleasing result and is an ideal choice for involving the community,” says Tiemann, who had been dreaming about doing a Green Man mosaic for a while before the opportunity presented itself to her – a milestone birthday.
“I don’t normally do much to celebrate my birthday but I think, every decade or so you should really do exactly what you want and have a real celebration,” says Tiemann, who began this project in early 2018 as a way of celebrating her 70th birthday.
“I think that I got the level of interest that I did, from friends and community members and neighbors, because they saw it as a birthday present to me, first of all, and it was something that would go out into the larger world also as an expression of all of them.” Tiemann says.
Tiemann organized a mosaic-making event that attracted participants from 8 to 80 years old. “Diverse political persuasions, genders, ethnicities and skill levels came together under the screened-in tent on the hill, while music played and birds sang,” she wrote in the grant proposal for the installation.
Each artist worked on one individual panel at a time, under the open theme of nature. “I had a basic grid and a basic outline, but within that everybody did their own inspired pieces and they’re all so different. It’s like nature in that sense. I’ve described it as a hodgepodge of life forms. It represents varying perspectives and sensibilities and yet they come together in this amazing whole,” Tiemann says.
“We would chat, laugh and inspire each other. Everyone had fun with this project and flowed together,” says Malden participant Belle Casale in an email. Casale has known Tiemann since 2009, her senior year of high school, when she was introduced by her art teacher, Gale Babin. “I became Lisa’s apprentice, learning to make stained glass panels and assisted her with the Turtle Walk mosaic project installed at Ell Pond in Melrose. We bonded pretty quickly and have been friends ever since,” says Casale.
“I let the glass inspire me. The textures and colors became my landscape for my first panel. It depicts mountains, covered in emerald trees and a cool lake of flowing blue glass, bits of china and tile. The sky warms towards a shimmering rhinestone sun and cools to violet at the edges, as it rises over the mountains,” Casale writes.
Inspired by another artist’s lovely red snake, Casale also created a turtle, in honor of her first project with Tiemann, for her second panel, and a lizard, specifically a Red Headed Rock Agama, for her third. (both pictured in slideshow below).
“Green Man is a very ancient story. We don’t really know exactly what the origins of him are,” Tiemann says. He is often affiliated with natural vegetation deities, whose mythology can be traced to Europe, Mesopotamia and ancient Egypt.
Green men can often be found carved into wood or stone in medieval churches and cathedrals. It’s possible he was included as a way to traverse religions, as Christianity began to replace paganism.
Tiemann recalls discovering Green Man in her travels years ago. “Where he first really jumped out to me was in Europe, when you would go to a medieval town and there would be a lot of old stone work. You’d see his face, maybe in a cathedral, and there were similar faces here and there.”
“I think we’re really turning a corner in our understanding now of what it is to be real partners in creation, with the other plants and animals,” says Tiemann, who herself feels a strong connection to nature, and enjoys daily walks with her dog, Cora.
Green Man will soon watch over all who pass through Cedar Park- a reminder of our kinship to nature and all living things.
Tiemann says she’s “looking for ways to have another community mosaic project along the glorious new bikeway on the Malden River and can see it drawing more interest to the path.”
Lisa Tiemann was also featured in our most recent episode of MATV’s Culture Matters podcast. She spoke with Ose Schwab and Amanda Hurley – so tune in to dive deep into Tiemann as an artist and uncover the healing aspects of nature and art!
“The hope with public art always is that it has a certain kind of impact to the onlookers. People will see this, I hope, as a celebration of life and beauty and interconnection.”- Lisa Tiemann
View the slideshow featuring the full list of 35 contributing artists, followed by photos of Green Man, with some of the vivid individual panels, including Casale’s turtle and lizard.
Amanda Hurley is a citizen journalist for Neighborhood View. Hurley is also a teaching artist, writer/performer with a passion for the arts, specifically theater and film.