Click on photos to enlarge.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Auseklis Ozols

Christ in the Oaks, Auseklis Ozols
In my book, Art THINK, (right column), I challenged the oft-repeated catchphrase, "Those who can, do; those who can't teach," by countering, "It's more important to teach art than to create it." As I grow closer and closer to the day in which I might need one, I think that might make a fitting epitaph for my tombstone. In other words, it's nobler to create artists than to create art. I'll leave it to others to argue the validity of those words, though I'm sure most who have done the former would support me over those who have exclusively done the latter. One artist I'm sure would agree with me in this regard is the Latvian artist/educator, Auseklis Ozols. For some thirty-five years now, he's been doing both quite successfully.
Along the Shore, Auseklis Ozols
Auseklis Ozols Self-portrait
Auseklis Ozols was born in 1941, not a good time to be born in a tiny country like Latvia, lodged between the Baltic states of Estonia and Lithuania, pressed hard between the sea, and the Soviet Union. Germany was on the march, Poland, the three Baltic nations, Finland, and ultimately, the Soviet Union lay it the path of the Nazi war machine. Before he was hardly out of diapers, Auseklis and his family had to survive Dachau, then only to face Soviet occupation after the war. In 1950, they escaped the horrors of the war and its aftermath by emigrating to New York. Upon learning a new language and graduating from high school in the mid-50s, Ozols began his art studies at the Trenton School of Industrial Arts before moving on to the prestigious Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art. His art idol became Thomas Eakins, whose controversial ten-year tenure as an instructor (and later, director) made his name practically synonymous with that institution. Upon graduation, Ozols moved on to Temple University where he obtained his MFA.

Christ in the Oaks, St. Rose de Lima Church, Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, Auseklis Ozols                     
During the following years, Ozols became one of the few living artists to have mastered each of the painting genres--landscapes, still-lifes, figures, and portraiture. His mural Christ in the Oaks (top) is evidence of this mastery. Occupying the apse of the African-American Catholic Church, St. Rose de Lima, in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, the painting has long been considered Ozols' masterpiece, both in its breaking new ground in the depiction of Jesus Christ, but also in its visual encompassing of the congregation, whose names are engraved upon the oaks, thus becoming part of that spiritual embrace (above).

New Orleans Academy of Fine Arts
In 1978, emulating Thomas Eakins, Auseklis Ozols founded the New Orleans Academy of Fine Arts (above) which has trained over three-thousand art students in the years since. Enrollment averages about three-hundred at any given time with a curriculum, taught by a faculty of twenty-one instructors (including Ozols), which covers the basics of drawing, painting, sculpture, photography, and calligraphy. Instruction is traditional with emphasis on drawing and painting from life employing classical Realism. Ozols daughter, Saskia, featured below in her father's painting, Saskia Arranging (below) is a well-known painter in her own right and one of the instructors at the school.

Saskia Arranging, 2000, Auseklis Ozols
One of Osols' more interesting works, The Opera (below) dates from 2000 in which he features portraits of major figures in the history and development of opera down through the centuries. Although the work has somewhat the appearance of the audience leaving half-way through the performance, it's a tour de force of portraiture, color, lighting, and composition on an impressive scale. The chart at the bottom will help identify the figures for those that much interested in opera.

The Opera, 2000, Auseklis Ozols
Diagram listing the figures depicted in Ozols' The Opera.


No comments:

Post a Comment