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 blight. Long gone are the orange groves, replaced by freeways, smog, crime, and an almost derelict downtown. I have occasionally returned to Pomona to visit my brother, who still lives there, and always found it depressing.

I was amazed, in 2005, to discover that artists had moved into downtown Pomona, perhaps because it's one of the few places where rent is still relatively inexpensive in Los Angeles. There are studios, galleries, and coffee houses where previously only empty storefronts, homeless people with their shopping carts, gangs 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 facilitated by artist Judy Chicago, muralist Kevin Stewart-Magee, and others in 2003. More than 35 artists and helpers and a year's effort was involved in the mural (shown in progress). 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.

That kind of said it all to me. Art, at it's best, can provide 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. For more information about their project, visit: "Envisioning the Future in Pomona" & "Kevin Stewart Magee"

May of 2008: AN UPDATE!

I was very pleased to receive a note from Kevin Stewart Magee, the amazing painter who was the, as he described himself, "Mural Team Facilitator" ("which meant that I lead artists through the process of researching the community and it's symbols, bringing that information to paper and working out, as a team, the design of the wall.") I'm pleased to copy his coorespondance below and the credits he gives for the creation of the mural. Once again, Hats Off!

"I'm Kevin, the muralist you credit with the design of the mural, and I wish I had. But it's complicated. This was done by one of the teams of artists working under the Envisioning the Future banner with Judy Chicago. I was the only professional muralist on the team and also acted as lead artist. We are planning a reunion this October, 2008 to meet up again and hang out. In preparation the mural should be cleaned and touched up. If you are interested the list of players on the mural is:

Lief Frederick, Sandra Gallegos, Cori Griffin, Rupert Hernandez, Lynne Kumra, Yolanda Londono, Amy Runyen, Kevin Stewart-Magee, Mural Team Facilitator, Lead Artist Chris Toovey, Mary Kay Wilson. Also Community Volunteers Joy McAllister,  Athena Hahn,Simon and Jeff, Erin Campbell, Silvana Paridis,  Nancy Lopez, Marisa (Taco Nazo), Lynne Kumra and kids, Amy Runyen Yolanda,  Renard Luc, Mary Kay,  Lief, Val, Austin, and the families of participants Jeved Fred Stewart-Magee, Cathy Tessier, Judy Bacca, Magu Boyd Nyberg ( I think he threw rocks at us to keep us awake), homeless punk kids in the plaza, NY Deli, Taco Nazo, La Bamba Charter School, Art Colony artists, businesses  and residents. See, it's complicated. 

I did a lot of the painting after the design was done, the Goddess, the table and bowl of fruit... but it was a team thing and as I work as a muralist, I always credit the team. The work is impossible alone and this design was the work of a team and the community.  If you are interested, my site is Kevin Stewart Magee and I have a billion pics of the mural at different stages."

Best, Kevin