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The Art of Frank Bauer’s Ceramic Mural

I love public art! And I am thrilled when builders incorporate art into their plans, and that is just what The Collection at RiverPark in Oxnard, California. My husband and I went to see a movie at the new theatre at The Collection and there was a big sign by the theatre showcasing Frank Bauer and the gigantic clay mural he was creating out of thousands of fish! I said I thought it would be cool to meet him, and my wish was granted when we found him finishing up the mural when we left the theatre!

Frank went through a long process of pitching his idea for the mural with the shopping center builders, and after he was chosen, some challenges came up for the mall putting off the date to start the project until an unspecified future time. Undaunted, Frank moved to Montana close to his family and started creating the tiles he needed for the project. Though he didn’t know exactly how many tiles he would need, he knew what he wanted the completed project to look like and just started creating.

He calls the mural The Aquarium. The scope of the mural is amazing covering a 36 by 17 feet wall with tile he created by rolling out 1,500 pounds of clay with a slab roller, then hand cutting each piece of tile. Then each piece had to be bisque fired to over 2000 degrees! Next came the glazing process for each tile, then firing the tile again to create a brightly colored glasslike surface. Not all the tiles turned out as he expected, but the variations made the combinations of tiles look even better together. After the six months it took him to create all the tiles, he packed them in his truck and returned to California to complete the project.

Never having done an installation of this magnitude before, Frank started by drawing a grid on the wall and drawing the basic plan and then using thin-set on the back of each tile to sort of glue them to the wall, he placed them one by one, working in color sections. It reminded me of trying to put together a jig saw puzzle. He started with light colors at the top and worked his way down with giant schools of fish in oranges, reds, blues and greens. He also included several blue turtles, but there is only one red turtle which is fun to try to find!

Now that the Aquarium is finished, Frank is working on two large round benches at the base of two trees in another area of the shopping center. The benches will feature birds with a sunrise and sunset theme.

After a long career in advertising and graphic design, Frank was ready to dive into his love which is fine art, so now he does tile mosaics and oil painting. He is inspired by the rich surface designs done in Hungary where his parents are from, and his favorite artist is Gustav Klempt. When I asked him about the question many artists ponder of whether is it appropriate or ethical to use styles similar to the masters such as Klempt, he says he sees being influenced by great painters more of “standing on the shoulders of giants rather than copying anyone else’s work.”

He currently has a show of his paintings running at the James Gray Gallery at the Bergamot Station Art Center in Santa, Monica California. He oil paints in a style he calls “lineillism” which is similar to the pointillism style of Seurat, but he uses tiny lines created with a number one paintbrush instead of points. Layering on colors and line shapes makes his paintings come alive exuding energy and depth, almost vibrating. Viewing his paintings is a memorable experience.

Frank really does what he loves and loves what he does!

Enjoy listening to Frank talk about his work in the videos to the left.

Frank shows the proposal for the two benches that encircle two trees at The Collection at Riverpark.
Pictures of the process of creating the benches.
Pictures of different views of The Aquarium ceramic mural.

Planet 9

35" by 43"

Dancing Gown

5' by 6'

In Plane Site

4' by 5'


4' by 6'

Matta of Fact

35" by 43"

Tux Me

5' by 6'

Red Chair

6' by 4'


Three Point Perspective

4' by 6'

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