Elizabeth La bouef
Joseph Knowles represents Santa Barbara’s History in Mosaic panels
The Form of art known as mosaic goes back over 4,000 years in time. It involves putting small materials together such as pebbles, stones, shells, tile, glass, and others materials to form a pattern with precise detail that viewed from far away creates a scene. According to Katherine Dunbabin, mosaics first appeared in the Greek world in the form of pavement, the earliest example in Greece belong to the late fifth century BC (“Mosaics of the Greek and Roman World”). Many cultures all over the world have adopted this technique thought out centuries to represent religious scenes or for decorative purposes. Mosaic art is still common, this eye- catching and colorful art practice brightens and gives character to simple building structures. This is the case with the piece by Joseph Knowles (1907-1980), In Santa Barbara, CA, the local Artist’s subject matter of the pieces was the history of the town, in six 13 feet high and 18 1/2 feet wide chronologic panels that have been recently moved and restored to a newly constructed building located in Chapala and Victoria streets. The massive mural was constructed from 260,000 individual tiles, and installed in 1959 at a cost of $25,000.00. Knowles represents the Chumash assets and culture in the first panel. In the second panel, he shows the coming of the Spanish conquistadores and in the third, the Mission Era where he shows the landmark, Mission Church. The fourth panel shows, the Ranchero lifestyle. The fifth, the coming of the settlers in 1849, when people came from the east coast in search of fortune. Finally, in the sixth, the Modern Era is represented with an industrial scene that shows modern advances from the 1950’s such as oil tankers, rocket ships, and cars.
The panels show a timeline of history with the introduction of the first panel which shows a representation of the earliest humans present in Santa Barbara, the Chumash People. In the scene, we can appreciate a representation of a Chumash woman and man doing everyday activities, such as using nature’s resources to sustain their living. We see the man holding a fish, and the Chumash woman holds a sack, this gives the viewers free interpretation of what the woman has in her sack which we can assume it might be food. The Chumash culture depended on land and sea’s resources for food consumption. According to C. M. Hogan, Foods historically known to be consumed by the Chumash include several marine species, such as black abalone, the Pacific littleneck clam, red abalone, the bent-nosed clam and others ("Los Osos Back Bay"). In the middle ground of the panel, there is a tomol which is a plank-built boat made from red wood. The Chumash used tomols to paddle to the Channel Islands and for fishing purposes. We can also view the mountains represented in the background, which is a highlight of the beauty in the town of Santa Barbara.