Gorgeous Mosaic featuring an Indian Bride Made Entirely out of over 200,000 Recycled Mardi Gras Beads Completed

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The 8' x 6' feet mural called "Rachana's Alegria" honors the incredible beauty and rich culture that immigrants bring to the United States. Mosaic artist Stephan Wanger uses recycled Mardi Gras beads to educate about recycling beads while promoting New Orleans and Louisiana through his large artworks which take several months to complete.

German born artist and New Orleans resident Stephan Wanger has completed a beautiful, colorful and intricate mosaic featuring Dr. Rachana (Ruchi) Sus after six months of work. Rachana was born in Kashmir, India and resides in New Orleans, LA. The huge mural (measuring 8' tall by 6' wide) features the famous Commander's Palace restaurant in the Garden District of New Orleans. The mural is called "Rachana's Alegria" and depicts an Indian Bride in her traditional wedding gown.

In India weddings are a seven day affair. On the day of the actual wedding, the groom is led by a procession of his friends and relatives, the groom may ride a horse or a car and is welcome with garlands and sweets at the bride's house. The bride and groom exchange garlands (Jaimala) and then rituals are performed in front of a sacred fire. Seven rounds are completed by the couple around the fire (each round signifying vows they are supposed to withhold) and then the ritual ends with the couple being showered with flowers.

The Kashmiri bride wears a colored saree with a head gear. A traditional Indian bride wears gold jewelry with a nose ring and bracelets/bangles and hair jewelry. During the wedding ceremony, she is adorned with long ear chains which signifies she is married. In other parts of India, the bride adorns a necklace with black and gold beads which signifies her marital status. The groom wears a long coat called a sherwani with a traditional turban.

"The United States has been built by immigrants and as a German immigrant myself I wanted to highlight the incredible beauty that immigration has brought to this country," said Stephan Wanger of Galeria Alegria, and added "that immigration educates and fosters cultural understanding about countries that not all Americans have a chance to visit." Wanger has never been to India and was delighted learning about India through Dr. Rachana Sus. Rachana means Creation.

Traditional henna decorations done with dried leaves made into a paste from the henna plant adorn the hands in a decorative pattern of every Indian bride and groom. This is considered auspicious and there is whole day of ceremonial rituals centered around this event called the mehendiraat (the night of the henna). In Kashmiri culture, the aunt of the groom or the bride adorns the henna onto the bride's/groom's hands and then also hands it out to other guests. In turn she gets money for distributing the auspicious henna. There's a old wives tale that says that the love of the husband can be gauged by the color henna leaves on the hands of the bride – the darker it is, the more her husband loves her.

Rachana's Alegria shows three names on her fingers slightly touching the saree. Her husband Neel "is the love of my life and the best thing that happened to me," adds Ruchi as she is called among her family and friends, "he is very smart, outgoing, a people person, loves to talk, sing and he is the most optimistic person I have ever seen."

About Reva, her first born, Ruchi added "a very smart girl. She is 4 going on 14. She is an artist herself and loves to color. She loves to sing and her favorite is "Moves like Jagger". She is a very girly girl and cracks me up with her wit. My Son Rahm is my little rascal, he is 2 1/2 yrs and is very independent. He hates being told what to do. He has the cutest smile and the most beautiful hair in the whole wide world."

Dr. Rachana Sus was born in Kashmir, India which was once said to be the heaven on earth. Ruchi said that "I grew up in the western part of India and came to the USA when I was 25. I am a physician by profession but an artist at heart. I am defined by my family and friends and one day I want to become a respected artist."

The artwork also features Commander's Palace restaurant symbolizing a location for annual family celebrations.

About Stephan Wanger, Artist
 
Stephan Wanger is a self-taught artist who channels his creative energy into assembling dazzling mosaics using recycled Mardi Gras beads. Working in a photo-realistic style, Mr. Wanger re-creates scenes, images, and icons of Louisiana to help bring awareness to the world of the innate beauty and wonder of the state's unique culture and varied communities.
 
Through his experiences traveling the world, Mr. Wanger has gained insight and influence from the Spanish Art Nouveau designs of Antoni Gaudi, the Moorish and Persian architectural details in Istanbul, Turkey, and the the sculpture and environmental art of Chicago artist and friend John David Mooney. These designs and images have translated to his work in pattern, design and fine detail. Though Mr. Wanger is not formally trained as an artist, he engages in a craft that speaks to fine art, borrowing the ideals of Post-Impresssionistic Pointillism and emulating the style and scale of Roy Lichtenstein's Pop-Art works. By approaching each piece with superior craftsmanship, Mr. Wanger has elevated what might be considered kitsch because of the whimsical materials he uses, and brings a level of "high art" to his craft.
 
In preparation for the formal construction of each piece, beads are meticulously sorted by size down to the exact millimeter and perfect shade, creating a detailed and varied palette much like a painter would for painting. The resulting play of light and color recalls several Post-Impressionistic artists' works while adding a new dimension of glitter and shine through the use of metallic, plastic and luminescent beads. The illusion of three-dimensional space is often created through the use of perspective but also the variety of sizes of the beads he uses to create actual dimension add an element of bas-relief. The finished works are stunning to regard both from distance and upon close inspection of his fine craftsmanship.

In January of 2012 - Stephan Wanger completed a Guinness World Record for the World's largest mosaic called "Sanctuary of Alegria" a 8' x 30' large mural that depicts the skyline of New Orleans. He recently decorated an entire Piano (Louisiana Legends Art Piano) to benefit Tipitina's Foundation.
 
Part of Mr. Wanger's goal is in using recycled materials for his pieces. Not only does he collect discarded beads throughout Mardi Gras in an effort to clean post-parade debris, but also, he regularly visits salvage yards to gather additional materials for his work. Through his art, Mr. Wanger hopes to inspire the citizens of Louisiana to recycle and to create, and the the rest of the world to appreciate and gain fondness for the unique culture and natural beauty that Louisiana has to offer. The exhibit is called "A Million Greetings from New Orleans."
 
Mr. Wanger's mosaics works can be seen at Galeria Alegria at 1924 Magazine Street, New Orleans, LA 70130, or online at http://www.galeriaalegria.com.

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