Friday, November 19, 2010

"Origins, an allegory of creative transformation"

Artist Statement

Origins, an allegory of creative transformation

by Ronald Mills de Pinyas

Muralism in the 20th Century, particularly in Latin America, was most often a form of social discourse that contrasted strongly with individual artistic work pursued in the privacy of one’s studio. Though the distinction has broken down somewhat through postmodern tendencies, public murals—perhaps more so than other visual art forms—has continued to raise social, ethical and artistic issues. A mural created for an art school dedicated to the metaphysical notion that artistic integration is of overarching value in the formation of culture and individuals offers very special and additional challenges for the muralist. Indeed, what can be offered that would feed the spirits of those who enter such a school? What does a painter have to say of value in this context to a musician, a dancer, a thespian, a poet, to the public? Does a common impulse animate the separate artistic disciplines? Are we collectively healed and civilized through art or does it remain a luxury for the elite and privileged?

For EMAI, I have chosen to paint a philosophical allegory concerning aspects of the individual as a creative being. In this way I have side-stepped social issues, per se, in favor of more basic assertions of psychological and spiritual growth, which one hopes will result in greater civility and culture, however indirectly. The message of the mural is therefore directed to artists of all disciplines and to an interested public. In the tallest panel, the first of four, my intent has been to allude to the integration of the disciplines. Subsequent panels will deal separately with music, dance and theater. Generally speaking, I have sought to evoke an abstract sense of music through luminous color passages, patterns in rhythm and the transparent flow of veiled forms. I have sought to celebrate the body in drama and motion, as well as note the conscious and unconscious ways we mask ourselves in social roles; those that define us and may sometimes keep our creativity muted and timidly conventional.

Structurally, I have thought in terms of various theaters, or stages of consciousness, represented vertically as a sequence of areas of the mural, radiating from the level of the golden proportion (about seven meters high) where I placed the infant in what I think of as the Theater of Solitude and Authenticity, alone and nascent in possibilities and latent expression, authentic, yet rather solipsistic, scarcely aware of the presence of others, including those that threaten him or her. Though represented in this fashion, it is also symbolically about the place of origins, of adult artistic authenticity, of peaceful oceanic consciousness, the place within us in which we are in ultimate existential solitude. In this state, our being operates blissfully prior to the opinion of others and various social, cultural and religious constructs and imperatives.

As the individual awakens further we enter what I think of as the Theater of Drama and Romance, of love and celebration—an abundant place animated by the ebb and flow of strife and joy— inspirations in either case—as the individual seeks, gains and loses intimacy vis-a-vis others; all fueled by strong passions, desire and longing. Lower still, at the level of the ground, is the Theater of Roles, of social life, in which we identify with our place in the world, where we wear masks as we interact as adults, children, parents, friends, enemies, and all the rest.

Above the infant in solitude—read origins—is the metaphysical Theater of Imagined Powers representing the myriad ways we conceptualize and comfort ourselves with invented, imagined projections of parental and god-like personifications of forces greater than ourselves, some sweet and benevolent, some ferocious and intimidating, some sacred, some profane. Whether they exist for us as numinous presences, as unexamined beliefs or conscious inventions, we must deal with our common tendency to imagine what lies in the shadows, to believe more than we know. It is this realm that has the power to inspire or condemn, to foment faith, to haunt us, to lift us up or to oppress our spirits.

Above the Theater of Imagined Powers is the Theater of Elemental Forces, the impersonal and faceless dynamic realm that animates our world space—prior to distinctions of of good and evil, it an unsettled field of darkness and light, a primordial place of beginnings and endings perhaps beyond our capacity to think or imagine.

Whether our authenticity is latent, and then we transmute it into art, or through art we make ourselves new is an enigma; both are true. Through the arts we risk a confrontation with who we are not, and who we are not yet, even who we never may be. Through art we are expanded to sway in time to spontaneous rhythms of the body, to whistle a tune in play, to have visions that penetrate and soar. Through art we tell stories that charm. Through art we honor life with an offering born by dipping into primordial well-springs.
The challenge that EMAI represents to the community is not only to master the technicalities of the separate art disciplines but to become fully realized, expressive and generous human beings rooted in both individuality and the community. One need only walk the corridors of this school to sense the commonality of the human struggle to live in joy, full of the sort of courage, energy and intelligence that permeates the hearts and minds of young and old alike. Here one feels the quiet desperation of mere existence receding, replaced by verve and an abundance of spirit.

This mural is given to the Escuela Municipal de Artes Integradas de Santa Ana and its community by Linfield College in Oregon, my home institution that graciously permitted me to realize this work while on sabbatical. I hereby dedicate it as well to a supremely generous and wise artist-musician and scholar, my friend and colleague of many years, EMAI Founder and Director, Dr. Jorge Luis Acevedo Vargas. May this mural incite discussion and provide a venue for contemplation for many years.

Ronald D. Mills de Pinyas
Professor of Art and Visual Culture
Linfield College
McMinnville, Oregon USA
12 de noviembre, 2010

Declaración artística:

Orígenes; una alegoría de transformación creativa
Mural de la Escuela Municipal de Artes Integradas de Santa Ana (EMAI) 
Por el maestro Ron Mills

Traducido por María Isabel Piñas Espigule

El muralismo en el siglo 20, particularmente en América Latina, fue mayormente una forma de discurso social que contrastó fuertemente con el trabajo individual artístico llevado a cabo en la intimidad del estudio. Aunque la distinción se han roto un poco a través de las tendencias posmodernas, los murales públicos -quizás más que otras formas de arte visual- ha seguido planteando las cuestiones sociales, éticas y artísticas. Un mural creado para una escuela de arte dedicada a la noción metafísica de que la integración artística es de un valor primordial en la formación de la cultura y los individuos, ofrece retos muy especiales y adicionales para el muralista. En efecto, ¿qué se puede ofrecer que alimente el espíritu de los que entran en la escuela? ¿Qué es lo que un pintor debe decir de valor en este contexto a un músico, una bailarina, una actriz, un poeta, o para el público en general? ¿Hay un impulso común que anima estas disciplinas artísticas por separado? ¿Somos colectivamente transformados y civilizados a través del arte o eso sigue siendo un lujo de la élite y de los privilegiados?

Para EMAI, he optado por pintar una alegoría filosófica sobre los aspectos de la persona como ser creativo. De esta manera he esquivado los problemas sociales por sí mismos, a favor de las afirmaciones más básicas de crecimiento psicológico y espiritual, que se espera se traducirá en una mayor civilidad y cultura aunque sea indirectamente. El mensaje del mural está dirigido a artistas de todas las disciplinas y al público interesado. En el panel más alto, el primero de los cuatro, mi intención ha sido hacer alusión a la integración de las disciplinas. Los paneles posteriores tratarán por separado sobre la música, la danza y el teatro. En general, he tratado de evocar un sentido abstracto de la música a través de pasajes luminosos de color, patrones en ritmo y el flujo transparente de formas veladas. He tratado de celebrar el cuerpo en el drama y el movimiento, así como denotar la manera consciente e inconsciente en que nos enmascaramos en roles sociales, los que nos definen y, que a veces pueden mantener nuestra creatividad silenciada o tímidamente convencional.

Estructuralmente, he pensado en términos de varios teatros o estados de conciencia, representados en una secuencia vertical de áreas en el mural, que nacen al nivel de lo que es la sección áurea, antiguo concepto armónico matemático, según la dimensión del mural. Aquí es donde coloqué al infante en lo que es el Teatro de la Soledad y Autenticidad. El infante está solo y emergente con posibilidades de expresión latente, auténtico, sin embargo, apenas consciente de la presencia de otros, incluyendo aquellos que lo amenazan. Aunque representado de este modo, también es simbólicamente el lugar de origen, de la autenticidad artística de los adultos, de la conciencia oceánica, el lugar dentro de nosotros en el que estamos en la soledad existencial. En este estado, nuestro ser funciona tranquila y felizmente con anterioridad a la opinión de los demás y de las diversas construcciones sociales, culturales, religiosas, y otros imperativos.

A medida que el individuo despierta, nos adentramos en lo que considero el Teatro del Drama de amor, romance y de celebración -un lugar abundante animado por el flujo y reflujo de las luchas y las alegrías- en ambos eventos inspirantes. Al mismo tiempo, el individuo busca, gana y pierde intimidad al relacionarse con el otro; siempre alimentado por fuertes pasiones, deseos y anhelos. Al nivel del suelo, está el Teatro de los Roles de la vida social, con los que nos identificamos con nuestro lugar en el mundo, donde llevamos máscaras cuando nos relacionamos como adultos, niños, padres, amigos, enemigos.

Por encima del infante en soledad -léase el ser en su origen- está el Teatro Metafísico de las Creencias y los Poderes Imaginados representando las miles de maneras en que conceptualizamos y nos confortamos con creencias, proyecciones de personificaciones paternas y de dioses de fuerzas superiores –proyecciones y creencias algunas dulces y benevolentes, algunas feroces e intimidantes, algunas sagradas, algunas profanas. Ya sea si existen para nosotros como presencias numinosas, como creencias examinadas y sin examinar o invenciones conscientes, debemos intimar con nuestra tendencia común de imaginar lo que está en las sombras, creer más de lo que sabemos. Es este Teatro el que tiene el poder de inspirar o condenar, fomentar la fe, obsesionarnos, levantar u oprimir nuestro espíritu.

Encima del Teatro de los Poderes Imaginados está el Teatro de las Fuerzas Elementales, impersonal, el mundo dinámico sin rostro que anima nuestro espacio terreno -antes de la distinción del bien y del mal, un campo inestable de oscuridad y luz, un lugar primordial de principios y finales tal vez más allá de nuestra capacidad de pensar o imaginar.

Ya sea que nuestra autenticidad sea latente y entonces la transformamos en arte, o sea, es un enigma que a través del arte nos hacemos nuevos; ambos casos son verdaderos. A través de las artes corremos el riesgo de una confrontación con nuestro ser, con quien no somos y quizás también con quien no somos todavía, incluso con quien nunca vamos a ser. A través del arte somos aumentados para mecernos a tiempo con los ritmos espontáneos del cuerpo, para silbar una melodía jugando, para tener visiones que penetran y vuelan alto. A través del arte contamos historias que encantan. A través del arte honramos la vida con una ofrenda nacida de la inmersión en manantiales primordiales.

El reto que representa EMAI para la comunidad no es sólo el de dominar los aspectos técnicos de cada una de las disciplinas del arte; es también el de ser seres plenamente realizados, expresivos y generosos seres humanos arraigados en la individualidad y la comunidad. Basta con caminar por los pasillos de esta escuela para sentir el carácter común de la lucha del ser humano por vivir con alegría, plenos de la clase de valor, energía e inteligencia que impregna los corazones y las mentes de jóvenes y viejos por igual. Aquí se siente el retroceso de la desesperación silenciosa de la mera existencia, sustituida por el entusiasmo y la riqueza del espíritu.

Este mural “Orígenes; una alegoría de transformación creativa” es donado a la Escuela Municipal de Artes Integradas de Santa Ana y a su comunidad por Linfield College de Oregon en Estados Unidos de América, mi universidad que amablemente me permitió realizar este trabajo durante mi semestre sabático. Yo por la presente se lo dedico también a un artista sumamente generoso, sabio músico y erudito, mi amigo y colega de muchos años, el fundador y director de EMAI, el Dr. Jorge Luis Acevedo Vargas. Ojalá que este mural provoque discusión y proporcione un lugar para la contemplación durante muchos años.
Ronald Mills de Pinyas
Profesor de Arte y Cultura Visual
Linfield College
McMinnville, Oregon, EE.UU.
12 de Noviembre de 2010

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Associated show of paintings, the inauguration or the mural, reception

The art school graciously exhibited my work during my residency.  Here is a link to an online portfolio of that work:

Here is the poster: 

and critical remarks by María Isabel Piñas Espigule

Ron, sons Ruben and Joel

Mural Poster and Brochure with Artist Statement (in Spanish)

brochure cover and back page

Last day; second panel "la música" finished just in time, leaving only two more for next year

Down to the wire.  Am finishing the second panel today, signing and taking down the scaffolding, dismounting the exhibition of paintings as well.
Showing the continuity of the color fields between the panels.

From about 6' to 16' from the ground.

18' to 28'

Second panel, about 28' tall.

View from the street.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Second panel taking shape

The second panel, devoted to abstract lyricism, metaphorically about music, is taking shape quickly.  I may finish it before leaving Costa Rica this year, or at least leave it presentable and ready for refinement later.   The idea, beyond alluding to music, is to create continuity with the first panel, mostly through ranges of color.

Half-page in La Nación today.

Page 28A:

A slightly easier to read posting from the newspaper's website:

Other postings generated by the mural inauguration include:

Rodolfo Carrillo from "TicoClub" kindly posted this (look at both the link for Murals at EMAI and "Ron Mills"

Also see Linfield College's link from the homepage at:

Alex Trejos Azofeifa from "TicoIndex" showed up and took and posted the video link below within hours, if not minutes, of the event!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Inauguration Day, at last

This morning I am finishing a few touch-ups here and there.  I will also be working on the second panel to hopefully make it more presentable for the reception tonight.  The light is wonderful today, I just need to wait for moments with minimum reflection to take the documentary photos.

.Chico and Michael are pouring a narrow strip of concrete at the foot of the mural to protect it.  Here are a few shots of the finished mural and a couple of shots sent to the local press.  Much hoopla in the works for the even tonight

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Finished! One down, three to go! (another year, please...)

 Another twelve-hour day and I am finished with the tallest panel.  I varnished the lower half with a special sealer.  Other than a few touches to improve a portrait of my sponsor and dear friend Jorge, it is finished just in time for the inauguration tomorrow evening.  I will post documentary shots tomorrow when the light is good, but I do have these shots taken today by Jorge.

In the third photo you can see the gallery where I am showing 13 canvases from 2010, mostly done in Oaxaca in the spring.  The inauguration tomorrow evening is for both the new mural panel and the exhibition.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Almost finished.

Good progress today; bottom section is about finished.  I may insert a subtle portrait of my dear friend Jorge as one of the people on whose shoulders rest the students who are receiving generational enrichment and education.  Will retouch and enrich that area tomorrow and post photos.   Should be able to finish and varnish the bottom half of the mural, then give the second panel a bit of work before the inauguration of the first on Friday.  Another 12 hour day today.  Funny how inspiration comes in waves of energy.  I was struggling with little stuff, afraid to move into the bottom field until mid afternoon, then launched into it and did good work, partly under electric lights, until it was about as good as it is going to get.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The lower register taking shape

Am nearing the bottom of the mural.  I should be finished with this biggest and tallest panel within a couple of days—which is good since it is scheduled to be inaugurated on Friday!  Two 12-hour days in a row...averaging about 8 per day for more than three weeks.  Am tired but satisfied that it is as inspired and interesting as I can make it.  The bottom part is about a chain of influence, social on the left, spiritual on the right.  Images of the family seem to have emerged more than I expected, but it is fine in the context of a school dedicated to the transmission of artistic knowledge and the maturity/individuation of the individual through such learning.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Starting second panel

Even though the first and tallest panel is not complete at ground level, I am starting the second panel dedicated to music, interpreted as a field of organic and lyrical abstraction.  During the next week I will be going back and forth between the two panels to integrate them and to hopefully segue the color passages from one to the other from ground-level perspective.

The light is better today since the storm of the last several days blew away.  Cold and mostly clear now.  Good conditions for photography.  Here are a few better shots of the upper sections:

Friday, November 5, 2010

The scaffolding is coming down to near ground level today!

Amid terrible rains and mudslides that have killed about 40 people just a few miles from here, work continues on the mural toward its inauguration on the 12th.

I finally titled the mural Orígenes; una Alegoría de Transformación Creativa  (Origins, an Allegory of Creative Transformation)  

Michael, who assisted Chico in the construction and removal of the scaffolding

Chico and Michael assembling the scaffolding in front of the second panel of four.

(11" x 17" poster)