Detroit Free Press
MOSAIC ENABLES ARTIST TO CLOSE 60-YEAR GAP
Edgar Louis Yaeger has come full circle.
As he pieces together an elegant glass mosaic for the facade of the Scarab Club in the Cultural Center, the 86-year-old Detroit artist is filling in a missing chapter of his own life.
The story dates to 1928, when Yaeger was a promising young artist and a member of the Scarab Club.
A new building was being planned for the artists club, and members were selected to execute different parts of the project. Architect Lancelot Sukert left an area on the building’ south exterior for decoration, perhaps with a mural or mosaic. But the Depression hit hard and the work was never commissioned.
“If it had been, it is more than probable that Edgar Yaeger would have been the artist chosen to do the work,” said Scarab Club president Charles Kelly. “This is just a tremendously heartwarming story.”
Thomas Brunk, club archivist and architectural historian at the University of Detroit, said: “Of the people who were around in the planning stages of the club, Edgar’s really the only one left. It’s rather appropriate that he’s doing the mosaics.”
The work is part of a renovation by the club, recognized by the National Register of Historic Places as an excellent example of arts and crafts architecture, which put particular emphasis on craftsmanship, Brunk said.
Using techniques he might have employed in the 1930s, Yaeger is making the mosaic from more than 10,000 pieces of Venetian glass that he cut by hand. He then pastes the pieces face down on paper, using a mixture of flour and molasses, and later flips the design over onto wet cement panels. The paper is peeled off before the mosaic is grouted.
Yaeger estimates that he will spend 1,500 hours on the abstract geometric designs, which will fill nine panels, about 2 ½ feet high. Grouped in threes, the panels will stretch more than 30 feet across the façade of the club.
“The glass is going to give off a particularly wonderful quality with the light on it,” Brunk Said.
Yaeger is donating the work to the Scarab Club and AT&T is donating $1,000 to cover installation costs, said club manager John Stapleton. The panels will be dedicated later this year.
Widely shown in the late 1920s, ‘30s and ‘40s, Yaeger’s work – primarily paintings – has gained popularity especially in Washington, New York and California, said John Joseph Jr., his first agent in more than 30 years. “You’re always better known out of town,” Yaeger said.
Prices now range from $100 to $10,000, said Joseph, a lighting designer who has also organized a fan club called Friends of Edgar Yaeger. Its more than 200 members include owners of Yaeger’s work and people who appreciate him as “the artist incarnate,” Joseph said. “The only thing he really cares about is creating.”