Carole Choucair Oueijan has a very distinctive, lyrical mosaic voice. She combines opus sectile and opus vermiculatum to weave stories of dancers and princesses, of dreamers and magical feasts.
From Oueijan’s Artist Statement:
This mosaic mural is about the history of Temecula and the significance of the Emigrant Trail in the City’s growth from 1847 to 1858.
The interior portion of this mosaic looks like a painting of the Emigrants – a scene of the pioneers coming to California, traveling by wagons, horses, mules, oxen and foot. You can also see the hard working women who played an important role in that period, the Pechanga Great Oak tree, and the beautiful colors of the Temecula Mountains. The unpolished gray granite you see in the background was taken from Temecula’s historic quarry.
The bas-relief frame uses 24 karat gold smalti as a nod to the importance of the Trail during the Gold Rush of 1849.
It is filled with people, places and things that were part of life in Temecula during that time period; a Luiseno Indian, a saddle used by a founding father, the still-standing stage stop, a broad ax and an apple butter paddle. The City was looking for art that would last forever and be “visitor friendly.” Mosaic using the Byzantine Indirect method was clearly the answer.
It’s enough to make any public official anywhere in the world jealous, isn’t it?
Oueijan also told MAN:
It is always exciting to make a public art project. This one started with the competition to get the project and the approval of all city members. In the design process, I learned a lot about the history in Temecula and particularly about that period of time. I did a lot of research about the American history of that period of time, worked with Temecula Museum’s staff, Researcher and Historian Dr. Ann Miller and spoke with many residents to get to this final result. The City was looking for art that would last forever and be “visitor friendly.” Mosaic using the Byzantine Indirect method was clearly the answer.
The artist was kind enough to provide MAN with a number of photos chronicling every step of her production from concept to installation. Whether you are a mosaic artist yourself or are a public official considering the installation of a large-scale mosaic work these photos easily serve as a short primer for the way a project of this size should be done.
Here is the golden Butterfield Overland Mail stage coach from the frame, from start to installation.
The Byzantine indirect method can be a little dizzying in the explanation. At the end of this post, you will see a link to a video by artist George Fishman that covers his use of the technique in another large mural.
There are so many reasons this is a splendid mosaic – Oueijan’s sensitivity to the client’s objectives for the work while still incorporating her signature style. Her diligence in researching and working with the community to design something historically meaningful. Her selection of a treasure trove of materials, including local stone. Her use of a 3-dimensional frame that brings to mind those ornately carved gilded frames favored by the painters of the period represented. Her meticulous planning and grasp of technical issues that facilitated a smooth installation of a user-friendly mosaic that will last the requested “100 years.”
We are mightily impressed. And so are the people of Temecula. Initial reaction to the work has been enormously positive – and it should be.
Oueijan dedicates this mural to her father: “I dedicate this mural to my dad who passed away October 2009. He went with me to the first presentation. He told me ‘You will get this project! I can tell by looking at the city staffs’ eyes. They will call you soon.’ I was very excited when I received their call, and I’m glad he knew that it was mine before he left us. I hope that he can see it now.”
Of course he can.
Enjoy – Nancie
Oueijan’s website: http://fineartbycarole.com
An article with commentary from Ouiejan and city officials here.
A video by mosaic artist George Fishman showing his use of the Byzantine Indirect method here.
Location of The Emigrant Trail:
Old Town Temecula Civic Center
41000 Main Street