Seattle Artist José Orantes' "Birds in Flight" Gallery debuts this week on Mercer Island

September 12, 2016 | by Erin Sirianni

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Original painting by Jose Orantes

“Mosaico de Mariposas” – original painting by Jose Orantes

Inspired by his recent experience working with Mercer Island students in grade 3 through 8, José Orantes will debut his “Birds in Flight” exhibition at the Mercer Island Community & Event Center, starting September 12th.

José Orantes created a series of new paintings for this gallery exhibit featuring Mercer Island scenes in his own artistic and whimsical style. After working with Mercer Island resident and mosaic artist, Sandy Glass, to create a series of mosaic installations in the Luther Burbank Park playground, Orantes found himself inspired by the scores of Mercer Island students who participated in the mosaic workshops.

This inspiration, along with his talent and imagination, captures the vitality of Mercer Island and the Pacific Northwest in vibrant colors.

This solo exhibition of Orantes’ new paintings and prints is the culmination of a mosaic project for Luther Burbank Park Playground on Mercer Island initiated through the Mercer Island Arts Council. The mosaic installations include nearly 250 square feet of mosaic artwork in the playground area of the park: Three mosaic installations were created with local students in grades 3 through 8; and a fourth installation that is a 5-foot high by 38-foot long 10mm glass-tile mosaic created from a mural Orantes painted. The 2-foot x 16-foot painted mural will be featured in his exhibit, along with a collection of new paintings inspired by work with the children and the local environment.

Gallery Opening Reception & Exhibit Details

Visit the exhibition at the Mercer Gallery in the Mercer Island Community and Event Center from September 12th through October 28th, 2016. The public is also invited for an opening reception on Thursday, September 15th, from 6:30 to 8 pm.

Artwork is for sale with a percentage of the sales going to support arts and cultural programming of the Mercer Island Arts Council. The framing of Jose Orantes’ paintings have also been supported by an Arts, Heritage and Preservation Grant from 4Culture.

New Mosaic Murals at Luther Burbank Park

Luther Burbank Mosaic

Photo Credit: Mike Frey

People visiting the playground area of Luther Burbank Park may have noticed the new large-scale mosaic murals installed within the playground. They may have also seen Orantes and Glass installing a 5-foot high by 38-foot long colorful and whimsical mosaic landscape above the play area in August.

The mosaic mural of a colorful landscape “Birds in Flight” is created out of 10 mm (1/4-inch) glass tiles that appear pixilated up close but come together from a distance like an impressionist painting.

Jose Orantes and Sandy Glass at center, with volunteers

Pictured left to right: Nancy Leon, Jose Orantes, Sandy Glass, and Heather Ramseyer

According to Glass, one of the joys of installing this public mosaic installation in the park has been the early morning connection to people who see the mural while she worked with Orantes.

Retired Lakeridge Elementary teacher, Janis Engvall and her husband who regularly walk through the park said: “I walk by every day and now instead of seeing the concrete, I’m watching the wall evolve into beautiful artwork!”

Long-time Mercer Island resident, Judy Helsel shared this sentiment: “A plain cement wall that was begging for artwork … what a pleasure to walk by this morning and see it in progress!”

These past three weeks, Orantes and Glass have been installing the 5-foot by 38-foot mosaic beginning each morning at 7 am. They have each worked over 125 hours to install the 10mm tiled mosaic with care. They are grateful for steadfast community volunteers that helped out throughout their work in the playground.

The Luther Burbank Playground Mosaic Art Enhancement was proposed by Sandy Glass and funded by the Mercer Island Arts Council. The 3rd– 5th grade workshops, not fully funded in the grant, received supplemental support by the Mercer Island Community Fund as well as from a private donation to honor the memory of Aaron and Mickie Freed.

Learn more about the project at