Mosley sculpts a lifetime of passion By C. Denise Johnson | Courier Staff Writer
“My sculpture is an urban Afro-American-Euro-Jazz influenced art. It is an effort to create works of vitality and identity which enhance space and transcend time.” If you’ve ever been down Herron Avenue between Bigelow Boulevard and Centre Avenue, you may notice an abstract looking piece of artwork that marks the Martin Luther King Reading Room and Cultural Center on Milwaukee Street; that piece of chiseled limestone is appropriately called “Mountaintop.” CARVING HIS NICHE—Sculptor Thad Mosley works on his latest project at his Manchester studio. Or perhaps you’ve seen the piece of public art that graces the corner of Centre and Dinwiddie streets next to the library—that 14-foot cedar is called “Phoenix.” If so, then you have seen the artwork and vision of nationally acclaimed artist Thaddeus Mosley. A native of New Castle, Pa., Mosley, born in 1926, is a self-taught sculptor. For a while, after a stint in the U.S Navy and graduating from the University of Pittsburgh in 1950, he led a double life, working for the U.S. Postal Service by day and working on his craft at night. Somewhere in between, he managed to do some freelance photography at the Pittsburgh Courier and other national periodicals. After retiring from the post office in 1992, Mosley turned his full attention to his art. For the most part, Mosley’s art is an individual endeavor. It also reflects his inspirations that are “indigenous” to his soul—African culture, abstract sculpture and a mad love of jazz. As he gained more skill and developed his own technique, Mosley’s work has gained a distinctive flow in the fluidity of sculpture, offering movement almost in defiance of its stationary medium. While he works primarily with hardwoods that are native to western Pennsylvania, he has been known to incorporate found objects (more commonly referred to as “junk” by the uninitiated). His work is widely known and he has had many one-person exhibits, most notably at the Carnegie Museum of Art in 1968 and 1997; The Pittsburgh Center for the Arts (Artist of the Year, 1979); The Three Rivers Arts Festival (with Selma Burke, 1990); and the Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild (1995). In 1997 Mosley’s work was honored with the publication by the Carnegie Museum of Art of a book titled, “Thaddeus Mosley: African-American Sculptor,” with a narrative by David Lewis. He has also helped and encouraged other area sculptors through his many years as an officer of the Pittsburgh Society of Sculptors. He is also a board member of the August Wilson Center for African American Culture. Mosley has received numerous awards including the Governor’s Award for Artist of the Year Pennsylvania Visual Arts for 1999; the Cultural Award 2000 and Guild Council Service to the Arts Award in 2002 from the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts and the Westmoreland Society’s 2007 Gold Award. In addition, he has received numerous commissions: Three Rivers Bench in 2003 for the David L. Lawrence Convention Center; Legends—Susquehanna Museum in Harrisburg, Pa., from December 2003-March 2004; Exhibition, Pue Gallery in New York City in March 2004. Because of his body of work, his inspiration and his mark on the aesthetic landscape of Pittsburgh, the Multicultural Arts Initiative will pay homage to the man and his legacy (which includes his painter son, Anire) Sept. 5 during its 20th anniversary, “A Celebration of Diversity in the Arts” at the New Hazlett Theatre on the North Side.