I felt like sharing this mural, to be found in Pomona, California. I recently received some correspondance from the magnificent artist Kevin Stewart-Magee, who had a great deal to do with envisioning the mural, along with an impressive community of artists he helped facilitate in the project. Here's something I wrote in 2006 about it.
Roman Goddess of Fruitfulness, Orchards, and Gardens
Pomona was the uniquely Roman goddess of fruit trees, gardens, and orchards, and her festival, which she shared with her husband Vertumnus, was always on August 13th. Pomona watches over and protects fruit trees and cares for their cultivation, and Her name is from the Latin pomum, fruit. "Pomme" is the French word for "apple".
Pomona was among the Numina, guardian spirits of Roman mythology, who watched over people, places, or homes. The Numina are, in essence, the holy spirits of place, from which the word "numinous" derives. Pomona protected and inspired the abundance of the fruitful gardens and orchards. She had her own priest in Rome, called the Flamen Pomonalis. A grove sacred to her was called the Pomonal, located not far from Ostia, the ancient port of Rome.
Pomona has a special personal significance to me, and I made a mask for this Goddess as a tribute, a history, out of the gratitude that is Her due, and perhaps, as a hopeful invocation as well. For She is truly one of the Goddesses of California, fruit basket to America. My family home is in Pomona, California, a town east of Los Angeles that once was the lovely citrus growing valley of Orange county. Now, and for many years, it's a prime example of urban destruction and despair. Long gone are the orange groves, replaced by freeways, smog, crime, and a deserted, almost derelict downtown. I have occasionally returned to Pomona to visit my brother, who still lives there, and always found it sad and depressing.
I was amazed, in 2005, to discover that an arts colony had moved into downtown Pomona, perhaps because it's one of the few places where rent is still inexpensive in Los Angeles. There are studios, galleries, and coffee houses where previously only empty storefronts, homeless people with their shopping carts, and drug dealers had been.
But I was absolutely stunned, while walking a street I long have regarded as a reflection of the awful waste of urban blight, to see none other than the Great Goddess Pomona Herself, in all Her glory and at least 3 stories high, blessing the land covering it again with beauty and hope. The mural, "Pomona Envisioning the Future," is the final piece of an extraordinary community art project led by artist Judy Chicago, and designed by muralist Kevin Stewart-Magee, in 2003. More than 35 artists and helpers and a year's effort was involved in the mural (shown in progress). The detail above (and I'm looking for a completed view) does not show the images of groves growing over composting heaps of industrial waste, or a circle of people sitting in council to the right of the painting, envisioning a new world, overseen and inspired by the numinous, purple clad, Roman Goddess.
Art, at it's best, can provide us with those lasting and illuminated moments of revelation that give us the strength to, indeed, envision a new, and better, future.
Hats off, and heartfelt gratitude, to the artists and community who brought the Goddess to downtown Pomona. For more information about their project, visit: