Let there be light in Venice! Recent Philadelphia transplant Mbasil Tantaros has been electrifying locals with his sculpted lamp creations, currently being shown at his display room LampÈ Mystique, 1644 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice.
For a decade or so, Tantaros has been sculpting and constructing lamps from scratch, using found and recycled objects such as broken faucets, discarded earrings, rusted bird cages and radio wires.
One man’s trash, another man’s treasure. Tantaros twists, molds and welds the items into works of beauty, that resemble science fiction creations or art nouveau anomalies.
One lamp resembles a leafy marsh plant; another suggests a gritty and industrial feel; and another was inspired by a parachute ride at Coney Island.
Designs for each of Tantaros’s lamps — which take about 30 hours to complete — evolve as he delves deeper into the creative process.
“None of the lamps are designed prior to execution,” says Tantaros. There are no sketches used.”
The lamp creations are not intended for functional use, to light a room or to read by. The purpose is purely aesthetic, much like a traditional painting or sculpture.
“The way I envision it, they are never meant to be turned off,” he says. “They should remain on, dimly lit. The intention of the lamps is to provide joy, pleasure and to constantly give beauty to the owner. There is also an element of intrigue. No one would buy one of the lamps unless they were intrigued by it.”
In making lamp sculptures, the light itself becomes part of the creative process and an integral part of the look of each piece.
“Toward the end of the process, I start to consider the certain reflections the light will give off and the colors that will radiate onto the wall,” says Tantaros.
Sometimes he makes parts of the lamps movable for further variety.
Finding adequate recycled objects is an important and time-consuming part of Tantaros’s creative process.
“I have this inclination to find things anytime, anyplace, anywhere,” says Tantaros. “I’ve taken from the trash, from the streets and often from flea markets and garage sales. I’ve gone to scrap metal yards and bought metal by the pound.
Tantaros moved to Venice for practical reasons — his daughter got married to a Venice local — and only later discovered the thriving local arts culture here.
A graduate of the Philadelphia College of Art, Tantaros had a career in the mental health field of psychiatric art therapy. He is now retired from that field and spends full-time hours on his lamp creations and fine art drawing.
LampÈ Mystique’s time in Venice may be limited, as Tantaros still has strong ties to Philadelphia — including to his original workshop, which remains set up — and he may move back, he says.
But for now, Tantaros has an entire new city to scrape through for abandoned scraps and tossed-out trinkets.
“Anytime I walk out the door, I’m out there looking for beauty.” he says.
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