The Ozols Collection offers respectful remembrance of Governor Foster through a look at his Portrait, pictured above, and painted by Auseklis Ozols in 2004. During Foster’s seat as Governor, he, First Lady Alice Foster, and his administration poured a great deal of time and effort into incorporating the arts and culture into a first floor renovation of the Louisiana Governor’s Mansion.
Ozols was chosen by a special committee to complete murals in the entrance Foyer to the Mansion. After submitting a number of to scale presentations on different ideas, he began work painting the mural. It was during this time that Ozols and Foster developed a friendship and Ozols was invited to paint his portrait. Following is a quote by the artist:
To commemorate the passing of Governor Foster, I share this portrait. It was painted at a time I was still working on the murals at the Governor’s Mansion. The murals were commissioned at the start of the Foster administration and continued through subsequent administrations, with pertinent additions of the Governor in each residence. (Auseklis Ozols, 2020 )
Ozols remembers that “Mike Foster was a willing and charming sitter who enjoyed sharing wonderful Louisiana anecdotes.” The two enjoyed many conversations throughout the duration of painting, and continued a fond correspondence afterword.
The environment was an artistic and familial one as Ozols was also working on the murals within the mansion’s walls at that time. His daughters often assisted, and one hand painted the lettering commemorating each of the 64 parishes of Louisiana which ascend the stairwell.
The Murals within the four sided entrance alcove offer glimpses of Louisiana wildlife through varied depictions of flora and fauna native to Louisiana. The imagery also includes visual narratives hidden within the composition symbolizing many Louisiana Govornors.
With Governor Foster’s administration, a wonderful artistic tradition was birthed. Ozols has continued to return to the Mural with each new Governor to add unique items particular or meaningful for them. We owe Foster’s administration a debt of gratitude for such careful attention toward the visual arts and their relationship with history.
In considering the Foster portrait there is much to contemplate artistically regarding how the picture was made. The portrait was structured from direct observation, (a method of representational painting where an artist sits in front of a subject and creates a picture based on their own observation and interaction with the sitter. ) Ozols painted this portrait near the end of Governor Foster’s term and travelled to Baton Rouge to sketch on site, en situ, in the Governors Mansion, bringing his own easel and arranging the installation, set up, and lighting.
This painting stands to demonstrate a certain beauty of form, organization, and painting prowess. The composition places Foster as a powerful figure seen at eye level. The use of sacred geometry with a strong supporting structure of light and shade helps move the eye throughout the picture plane as the artist intended weaving the viewers eye from ornate still life adorning the Governors desk in the foreground to a lush Louisiana landscape in the background seen through an open door. The work brilliantly demonstrates classical artistic skills through the genres of Portrait, still life, and landscape all in one composition.
The light enters the room through an open French door revealing a garden of oaks from the Goveror’s family property in Franklinton, LA. Illuminated from the light of a Louisiana Landscape, the portrait glows with representations of both contemporary and historical meaning.
The portrait hanging on the wall behind Governor Foster is one of his grandfather who served as Governor of Louisiana from 1892-1900. The pocket watch on the desk belonged to him, and commemorates their relationship. The photograph in the very foreground depicts his wife, First Lady Alice Foster. The photo is situated in front of a motocycle figure that commemorates Foster’s fondness for the activity of riding.
Ozols has worked as an artist for the Governors mansion of Louisiana throughout a number of administrations, and throughout them all, the power of art has managed to bring to light a love of Louisiana that transcends point of view.