Student's Mosaic Exhibited at Oakland Museum

  • October 31, 2008
  • MEDIA CONTACT: Diane Daniel; Publicist; College of Letters, Arts, and Social Sciences; (510) 885-3183

Philip Long with his artwork, "Ascension of John Long," a 12 by 6 leather mosaic on display at the Oakland Museum of California.Philip Long of Castro Valley may be the first person to exhibit art at the Oakland Museum of California while a student at California State University, East Bay.

The junior in pictorial art created the 12-foot by 6-foot "Ascension of John Long" in his backyard studio to commemorate the life of his beloved father.

The leather mosaic is part of the museum's 15th annual celebration of the dead, "Evolution of a Sacred Space: Das de los Muertos 2008," curated by Fernando Hernandez, CSUEB graduate and former ceramics and sculpture lecturer.

The younger Long, also a graduate of a fashion design school, has been sewing with leather for 20 years, and painting for the past 18. Beginning about three years ago he merged the two media into numerous small art pieces. Concurrently, Long, as a member of the East Bay Arts Collective, has participated in smaller "Day of the Dead" shows organized by Hernandez at such places as the Hayward Sun Gallery.

Long was already working on ideas for this year's "Day of the Dead" exhibit when the battered body of his father was found Feb. 2 in waters off of southern Mexico. His 55-foot steel-hulled ketch, Culin, washed up on a beach. The circumstances remain a mystery, but several reports suggest piracy.

Hernandez offered Long the option to bow out of this year's show so he could grieve for his father. Instead, he threw himself further into the project, creating perhaps 30 sketches, and then a final, full-size composition that now graces a 16-foot by 9-foot wall.

When the Long family returned to California July 15 from spreading John Long's ashes in his native Ireland, Philip Long focused on the collage, toiling 474 hours spread over eight weeks in cutting, gluing and stitching leather while also working a fulltime job.

"I'd work in my shop from 6 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., go to my job from 1 to 9 p.m., and do it again the next day. I couldn't have done it without my wife's (Myla Jolley) support."

Long's complete mosaic on display at Oakland Museum of California."People ask if the process was cathartic. It was and it wasn't," he said. "I've never been more focused; I've never been more driven, and the mosaic has received a nice response. Some people have even cried."

In the leather mosaic - looking like a painting stretched across canvas - John Long is rising out of the water while his bones fall back into the sea.

"He loved the water. He was a sailor, a merchant marine, a fisherman. He was larger than life, and this mosaic is larger than life," said the artist.

Phillip Hofstetter, CSUEB art department chair, calls the creation "impressive" both for its creativeness and its enormous size.

Information on the museum exhibit is at

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