Looking down at the colorful Cubist mural he’s created at the San Luis Obispo City-County Library, Pismo Beach artist Robert Maja can’t help but smile.
“This makes me happy,” he said. “When I paint this style, I feel peaceful. I feel great.”
Maja’s “Movimiento Mundial,” or, “World Movement,” is the newest piece of public art to grace the main entrance to the library’s atrium. The 80-foot-long mural will be dedicated Thursday at a ceremony and reception.
San Luis Obispo Friends of the Library board member Dawnna McDougall applauded the addition to the library building.
“Libraries are here to enrich our lives in every way,” she said.
Kristine Tardiff, then the San Luis Obispo library manager, contacted the city of San Luis Obispo’s Visual Arts in Public Places program in December 2010 about installing a public mural at the library.
SLO Friends of the Library acquired an $18,000 grant from the Harold J. Miossi Charitable Trust, and Visual Arts in Public Places provided matching funds.
A call for artists went out in May 2012. After two rounds of evaluations, McDougall and her fellow jurors selected Maja from 35 applicants.
“We were blown away (by)… his color, his style and the richness of his content,” McDougall said of Maja, who moved to the Central Coast from the Dominican Republic in 2006.
In creating “Movimiento Mundial,” a vibrant cityscape that recalls one of Pablo Picasso’s livelier works, Maja said he wanted to reflect the universality of the human experience.
“My point with this mural is (that) people around the world do the same thing: work, pay bills, go to dinner,” explained the artist, who blended images of leafy vegetation, angular buildings and stylized people with symbolic imagery. A wheel represents progress, he said, while a ladder signifies working hard to achieve one’s dreams.
“This was my vision,” he said. “This was my idea.”
Maja initially sketched his design on cardboard, then on a 10-foot-long piece of canvas, which he presented to jurors. That canvas will be auctioned off in three framed pieces at Thursday’s dedication, with proceeds benefiting SLO Friends of the Library.
The library mural is far from Maja’s first foray into public art.
After graduating from Escuela Nacional de Bellas Artes in Santo Domingo, he spent four years as the official muralist of the Dominican presidency. He also worked with artist Silvano Lora on a mural at the University of Santo Domingo.
Maja moved to Madrid in 2001 and painted murals throughout Italy, Holland and Spain — including one honoring the victims of the 2004 Madrid train bombings.
In the United States, the artist has forged connections with the Manny Mota International Foundation in Los Angeles and the Museum of Latin American Art in Long Beach. In 2012, he was included in “The Dominican List,” a documentary and publication by the Dominican American National Roundtable recognizing Dominicans’ contributions to the United States over the past 50 years.
Locally, Maja participated in the city of San Luis Obispo’s BoxArt program in 2010. His utility box sits at Monterey and Santa Rosa streets.
Maja’s work can also be seen at High Street Deli in San Luis Obispo and Seaside Gallery and Pasta Bella restaurant in Pismo Beach. In addition, he participated in the Shell Beach Improvement Group’s ARTcans program, which invited artists to decorate trash and recycling cans.
Maja began work on “Movimiento Mundial” in early May during library off-hours, using a blue United Rentals lift to reach the farthest corners of the atrium. The piece was completed last week.
Compared to the biggest mural he’s ever painted, which towered more than 50 feet tall, “this is a piece of cake,” Maja said.
if you go
“Movimiento Mundial” by Robert Maja will be dedicated at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, June 27, at the San Luis Obispo City-County Library, 995 Palm St. in San Luis Obispo. For more information, visit www.slofol.org or call 543-6247.