Famed New Orleans artist will visit St. Rose de Lima Catholic Church for a candid discussion about his life and work, particularly the mural he painted in the church’s sanctuary.
- by Connie Voight
The mural is located in St. Rose’s sanctuary, where the event will take place on February 25, 2023 at 11:00 a.m. This once-in-a-lifetime event is free and open to the public.
Ozols arrived in the United States with his family in 1949, settling in Trenton, New Jersey. Ozols received a BFA from the University of Pennsylvania, then attended the historic Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts Studio Program, training under Walter Stuemfig. He received his MFA from Temple University. In the late 1960s, Ozols came to New Orleans to design an exhibition space at the New Orleans Museum of Art. After meeting and marrying a New Orleans woman, the Crescent City became his new home. Ozols and his late wife, Gwendolyn, opened a studio in New Orleans, while he continued his work in Philadelphia doing commercial art as well as painting designs and murals. In 1978, after deciding that New Orleans needed an art school that stressed the classical and more traditional methods, Ozols opened a small art studio on Magazine Street.
In 1980, Ozols had the opportunity to expand upon his dream, when a former student, Dorothy Coleman, offered him the use of a three-story Victorian building, also on Magazine Street. Ozols and Coleman co-founded the New Orleans Academy of Fine Arts, with Coleman taking on the role as the Academy’s first president.
American Artist Magazine interviewed Ozols in 2001, when he explained his belief that good paintings start with good drawings. “Drawing is a search, a looking into the wonderful mysteries of creation, and it is a vehicle for personal expression. Whatever we have in ourselves comes out in that drawing. It’s miraculous. You can’t learn how to paint without learning how to draw. It’s as simple as that.” Ozols describes his own painting style as Romantic Realism.
Ozols’ “Christ in the Oaks” is the focal point of the sanctuary and covers the wall behind the altar. The mural represents the crucifixion and the resurrection and features a Christ of mixed heritage. Christ rises above a foggy background in which Ozols designed a realistic ancient live oak tree adorned with Spanish Moss. Christ is draped in pure white fabric, trimmed in Kente cloth. The tree, with its roots firmly planted, reaches up toward the heavens, reminding us that Christ is free of the bonds of earth.
John Anderson, local architect and former president of The Arts, Hancock County, says, “‘Christ in the Oaks’ is undoubtedly an incredible piece of work by an extremely talented artist.”
The mural represents the spiritual rebirth of St. Rose, a historically African American congregation. Anderson says his favorite part of the mural is the “wind” through the tree branches, created using the family names of parishioners and those who helped make the mural a reality. He goes on to say, “Painted during a time of shared community introspection and action that saw a resurgence of the church as a respected pillar in the Bay St. Louis community, the work has become synonymous with St. Rose, and people come from near and far to experience it.”
Anderson concluded, “The power of art couldn’t be better represented than through this mural, which is why we are looking forward to celebrating it, Mr. Ozols, and the many others who helped.”
St. Rose and The Arts, Hancock County, invite our community and all who share an interest in the church, the mural, or the arts, to join us on Saturday, February 25 at 11:00 at St. Rose de Lima Catholic Church, located at 301 South Necaise Avenue, Bay St. Louis.
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