For years, Jim Bachor has been using an ancient mosaic technique to turn Chicago’s potholes into playful works of art. Here’s his story — in his own words.
I do contemporary ancient technique mosaics. It’s an old technique. I actually learned it in Ravenna, Italy. It’s tedious, and you know, time consuming, it can be expensive.
To my right I’ve got a hammer and hardy for cutting marble, for glass, and I can work on that, cutting pieces and putting it into the clay. I transfer it on to cheese cloth, and that’s the piece of art I take for my pothole installation.
The ideal pothole is about 18 inches by 24 inches. Not in the center of the road. Maybe it’s about three inches deep. It’s just that ideal rogue pothole that happens to form that gets my attention.
Actually what got me going with mosaics originally was the durability. I visited Pompeii for the first time in the late 1990s, and a tour guide pointed out an ancient mosaic and said, glass and marble don’t fade. So that mosaic that we’re looking at looks just like the artist intended 2000 years ago.
The first one I did in May of 2013, so it’s been six years I’ve been doing this. I used to be very paranoid cuz it’s like people are looking at me wondering what I’m doing, but people have their own lives and are doing their own thing. I clearly look like I’m supposed to be here.
But as the campaign has gotten more popular, I’ll be out somewhere and someone across the street will be, “I know what you’re doing,” or you know, “I like your work” or like kind of stuff.
I still don’t know if it’s legal or not, but I have had discussions with police through the years, about a half dozen, and once they know what I’m doing they don’t have an issue with it.
I just think it’s fun to think somebody walking on the street and then just by chance noticing there’s something in the street that shouldn’t be there, a different color, and then realizing the pothole’ been fixed, which is good, but then realizing it’s a piece of art which is better.
A lot of the subject matter I do for my work, you know a lot of it’s stuff that are universal loves, whether it’s ice cream or flowers or junk food or whatever so that contrast is a lot of fun to me.
It hopefully carries along a little bit of my personality, you know the dry humor of it or whatever the absurdity of it. You know it’s kind of like the ridiculousness of personality.
I hope it carries on for a couple generations. Maybe the great great, great grandkids are not gonna know who I am at all. But maybe they’ll know about this relative that had this kooky sense of humor.
Bachor posts the finished products to his Instagram account.