Friday, May 21, 2010

Pomona revisited..........

I've been in Pomona, California, dealing with family issues and money issues........exhausting. So, needing sustanance, I went to visit the Goddess of abundance, who makes her blessing for all to see, and strangely rarely noticed, in the half abandoned mall of the town named in her honor. I felt like sharing this community painting, which is really a kind of blessing, and a prayer. 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. The detail above 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 future. Hats off, and heartfelt gratitude, to the artists and community who brought the Goddess to downtown Pomona.

Here's a writeup about the mural from

Pomona Envisions the Future is a mural created through a community-based project named Envisioning the Future (E.T.F), which took place in the Pomona Arts Colony from 2002 to 2004 and included over 80 artists. The mural is 140' x 42' acrylic on prepared concrete substrate on the west side of the Union Block building. It consists of four walls at right angles to each other.

The Envisioning the Future project was lead by artist Judy Chicago, photographer Donald Woodman and Cal Poly Pomona. The mural was painted by lead artist and mural project facilitator Kevin Stewart-Magee, and Envisioning the Future artists/participants Lief Frederick, Sandra Gallegos, Cori Griffin-Ruiz, Rupert Hernandez, Lynne Kumra, Yolanda Londono, Amy Runyen, Chris Toovey, Mary Kay Wilson, Erin Campbell, Athena Hahn, Joy McAllister and Fred Stewart-Magee. Artists Magu (Gilbert Luján) and Judy Baca consulted on the project. Cheryl Bookout was the Envisioning the Future project coordinator.

It depicts the history of the City of Pomona from its pre-European past, through its agricultural and industrial ages into its bright future which restores the land in balance with humans. The mural was restored and finally finished in 2008 with funds from the City of Pomona Board of Parking Place Commissioners. A bronze plaque from the Downtown Pomona Owners Association was added on October 4, 2008 at the re-dedication ceremony. The mural is located at the intersection of Thomas and Second Streets in downtown Pomona, California in the Pomona Arts Colony.

Tongva Indian prepares food

It begins by depicting the pre-European landscape with the indigenous Tongva people in the dark sepia color palette. The image of a by-gone natural open landscape rounds the corner and transitions into the historic past of rolling hills and open land erased and replaced by the familiar citrus groves established by the first European settlers.

Early Hispanic farm laborers working the fields

The color palette remains a restrained monochromatic blue-green. This is atypical of the traditional portrait of time as depicted in the multitudes of idyllic brightly colored packing house labels. Instead the muted colors signal the coming Industrial Revolution and environmental dark days to come. At the reveal wall recesses to the main wall the decline of the citrus industry is represented by dead citrus trees that stop abruptly with the landscape at the twenty-four foot figure of the Goddess Pomona. Pomona, originally the Roman Goddess of orchards, was selected as the name for the city in the late 1800s.

The Goddess's arms are outstretched as doves leave her hands in flight towards a hopeful future. The background behind the goddess figure is turbulent, murky and orangey-brown. The landscape turns to a congested urban-suburban sprawl of industrial pollution and over crowded housing tracts. As the narrative moves along to the right, mountains and blue sky emerge from the bleak present and the misty outskirts of a glowing city at the portal of a new age. In the foreground is a school of the future.

Students are seated on a luminous ring or "learning circle" which hovers over serene and lush rolling hills in an environment that has been restored to near primordial conditions. In the distance is a vision which is millions of years away from the actual event, the galaxy Andromeda is seen in the morning sky as it approaches our own Milky Way.

Throughout the mural along the bottom is an undulating wave representing subterranean strata. The wave contains artifacts and objects that represent the ages up to a time where the human species has achieved balanced health and harmony, with a vision of the future which encompasses the universe.

Last, let me share another one of the gifts of the Goddess........the astounding Jacaranda tree, which blooms wholly purple in May, dropping it's lavender snow everywhere among the unheeding smog and traffic............ever generous. Pomona, casting her purple blessings.

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