Strolling along South Street in Philadelphia you are sure to notice walls of colorful and reflective mosaics. On the block between 10th and 11th streets you’ll come to the home of Philadelphia’s Magic Garden, a maze of mosaics created by visual artist Isaiah Zagar. You’ll see everything from colored glass bottles to old wheels, painted tiles, small and large portions of mirrored glass in the 3,000 square feet of outdoor and indoor space. In the exterior portion you can have a seat and converse or walk through the maze of stairs, grottos, tunnels, walls, and pathways that are covered in these colorful mosaics.
The artist began working on the Magic Garden in 1994 and has filled the space with visual stories of his wife and two sons, his personal life, while paying tribute to his own artistic influences and major world events.
This space is full of inspiration as are the walls of buildings leading up to and away from it. Every single inch of the space tells some colorful story or other. In the interior portion I literally found myself looking up at the ceiling and spinning in circles to catch every word, every image, every painting, every drawing, every mosaic and reflective surface. This small space, used completely and effectively, reminded me of Park Güell in Barcelona; and how apropos considering that Guadi is one of Zagar’s major artistic influences. Currently in his mid 70’s, Isaiah continues to work and create visual art which can be seen in many art institutions including the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts as well as the streets of Philadelphia and throughout the world.
“…My work is marked by events and is a mirror of the mind that is building and falling apart, having a logic but close to chaos, refusing to stay still for the camera, and giving one a sense of heaven and hell simultaneously.”
Indeed there is a sort of organized chaos about the place. I got the sense that this is what happens when someone takes the discards or broken pieces of life and perseveres to form something beautiful. If nothing more, it’s a testament that everything in life can be beautiful if we only allow it to be.
And what comes of that allowing can definitely be described as a sort of Magic…
For more information about Isaiah Zagar and Philadelphia’s Magic Garden, visit http://www.phillymagicgardens.org/visitor-information/