Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens Hosts New Exhibition, “Ritual of Self” by Isiah Zagar’s Self-Portraits on Paper

Reported Wednesday, February, 14, 2024.

Pictured Above: “Ritual of Self” Isaiah Zagar’s Portraits on Paper #12.  Photo Credit: Contributed. 

View thousands of never-before-seen mixed-media self-portraits by the renowned mosaic artist



Philadelphia, PA – Though widely known for his large-scale public mosaics, international artist Isaiah Zagar’s staggering collection of work includes drawings, paintings, prints, and mixed-media pieces. Opened on February 2, visitors can explore Ritual of Self: Isaiah Zagar’s Self-Portraits on Paper, a revelatory selection of never-before-seen mixed-media artworks.

Between 1976 and 1993, Zagar worked daily on his self-portrait series and produced over 2,400 works during that time. Ritual of Self features 40 physical works with additional pieces displayed through videos and projections curated from a collection of over 2,400 pieces by Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens Exhibition Manager Chelsey Luster. Boundlessly energetic, moody, and experimental, the series evolved into a ritualistic practice of storytelling. Treated as a diary, the pieces incorporate found objects, photography, handwritten text, folk art, stamps, textiles, and painting materials.

Pictured Above: “Ritual of Self” Isaiah Zagar’s Portraits on Paper #19.  Photo Credit: Contributed. 

The exhibition reveals a look into Zagar’s obsessive, introspective, vibrating world – one that would eventually evolve even further with his public mosaics in the 90s through today, including the creation of Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens.

While Zagar’s signature mosaics adorn the exploratory spaces of PMG, the indoor galleries usually feature rotating exhibitions by other renowned artists who explore folk, mosaic, and visionary art. In presenting Ritual of Self, however, visitors can get a deeper look at his expansive and expressive artistic practice.  Most of the works presented in Ritual of Self: Isaiah Zagar’s Self-Portraits on Paper are available for purchase.


Learn more about the exhibit and Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens at

Pictured Above: “Ritual of Self” Isaiah Zagar’s Portraits on Paper #7.  Photo Credit: Contributed. 

About the Artist:

Isaiah Zagar is an international award-winning mosaic mural artist who has devoted himself to beautifying neighborhoods across Philadelphia since the late 1960s. He has created more than 200 public walls throughout the city of Philadelphia and 28 around the world over the last five decades. Born in Philadelphia and raised in Brooklyn, Zagar received his BFA in Painting & Graphics at the Pratt Institute in New York City. When he was 19 years old, Zagar discovered the art environment of Clarence Schmidt in Woodstock, NY. This shaped his ideas of what art could be and started a lifelong interest in art environments and their creators.Zagar’s artwork is heavily influenced by his travels and the personal connections he has made with international folk and visionary artists. Zagar and his wife, Julia, completed three years of Peace Corps service in Peru in the mid-1960s, working with folk artists in the Puno region near Lake Titicaca. Soon after, they settled in Philadelphia and began their life’s work of creating public art and fostering creativity in all its varied forms. In addition to his three-year Peace Corps service in Peru, Zagar has completed artist residencies in Tianjin, China, and Rajasthan, India. He also participated in a residency at the Kohler Co. Pottery Foundry in Wisconsin. His work is included in the permanent collections of numerous art institutions, including the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Pennsylvania Academy ofthe Fine Arts, and has been featured in solo exhibitions throughout the Philadelphia area.

About Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens:

Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens (PMG) is an immersive mixed-media art environment that is completely covered with mosaics. The creator, Isaiah Zagar, used handmade tiles, bottles, bicycle wheels, mirrors, and international folk art to chronicle his life and influences. The exploratory space is made up of two indoor galleries and a bi-level outdoor sculpture garden. As a nonprofit museum, PMG celebrates art in its many forms through community outreach, public programs, hands-on activities, exhibitions, and tours. PMG welcomes everyone to explore the space and embrace the possibility of self-expression.

Pictured Above: “Ritual of Self” Isaiah Zagar’s Portraits on Paper #8.  Photo Credit: Contributed. 

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