The Mural in the Mansion
The Mural in the Mansion
The entrance to the Governor’s Mansion opens on a beautiful Louisiana setting captured on canvas in an original mural painted by Auseklis Ozols. Mr. Ozols is the founder and director of the Fine Arts Museum in New Orleans. Depicting scenery from the four corners or the state, this work of art took the artist six months to complete, working only on weekends. Former governors who have called the mansion “home,” including Jimmie Davis, John McKeithen, Dave Treen, Buddy Roemer, Edwin Edwards, Mike Foster, Kathleen Blanco, Bobby Jindal and currently Governor John Bel Edwards, are all represented within the mural. The mural was donated to the Foundation by Mr. & Mrs. Joseph Canizaro of New Orleans.
From the Words of Auseklis Ozols:
The exciting and timely project, the redecoration of the Louisiana Governor’s residence, has come to be a most positive effort for the benefit of the people of our state. It is now a showplace that represents the talents and arts of Louisiana to local, national, and international visitors.
To be asked to participate in this auspicious undertaking was an honor and a privilege. I was asked to submit to the committee designs that I thought fitting for murals to be located in the entrance hall. I prepared scale elevations of the intended walls with renderings of a series of designs for the inspection of the committee. After several revisions and positive input from the committee I began the work.
Marouflage, or mural decoration, is an ancient discipline that involves the mounting of large paintings on walls as a decorative element that is married to the architecture it inhabits.
The natural proclivity for an artist in this situation is to seize it as an opportunity to express personal aesthetic convictions, but it soon becomes evident that the design of the mural must, above all, compliment the architecture and general décor of the building. It’s decorative and graphic strength must be subservient yet complimentary to the general theme.
The entrance hall, with its north-south orientation, embraces three ample doorways. The north, leading to a grand circular stair hall, the east leading to the state dining room, the west to the main parlor, and the south doorway bring the entrance through a vestibule into the building.
I studied the views through the four doorways in order to take note of architectural and color elements that could be incorporated in the mural designs. This is important for a visual continuity and thematic integration.
My plan was to use as the main theme, the flora and fauna of our grand state. Since the space has a north-south orientation, I chose in a general way to represent the four corners or the state. The two northern corners would suggest the Shreveport and Monroe areas, with rolling landscapes settling to a country scene, with marsh reaching toward the gulf and a Grand Isle beach scene including a view of Fort Livingston.
Throughout the mural I placed birds, creatures and sundry denizens to activate and enliven trees, shrubs and groupings of flowers.
Above the two grand entrances to the parlor and dining room, I placed two cartouches, one comprised of Louisiana flowers, and the other over the entrance to the dining room of fruits, vegetables and other produce of Louisiana. Of particular interest to me were the large leaves of Perique Tobacco that grow only in St. James Parish and nowhere else in the world. I strove to include our main industries such as oil, fishing and shrimping.
I thought it would be interesting to have unobtrusive references to the governors that have been in residence here, and I sought to devise symbolic elements pertaining to their tenure. I tried to place them strategically throughout the mural. I enjoyed placing lighthearted tidbits throughout for children to discover.
This exciting project began in year 2000 and I was privileged to do the work “En Situ” or in place, arriving at the mansion early in the morning and staying until some official function required me to leave. I would set up my paints and other equipment daily with the help of a most forthcoming staff. The state trooper guards, without exception, were all most kind and helpful. I became acquainted with the governor’s staff, who were all gracious in their assistance to me.
My time spent in Baton Rouge was a most joyful period of my life. I am grateful beyond words and will cherish it always.
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