Sunday, April 3, 2016

Basta! Ya! The mural is complete.

The mural is tentatively finished.  The formal inauguration for the six-year piece will be in October after my good wife Maria Isabel Pinyas de Mills has given it her final blessing.   

Here are summary highlights followed by a rough draft of an updated artist statement.   Earlier posts contain many details and progress shots.

Origins, an allegory of creative transformation 
For the School of the Integrated Arts I have chosen to paint a philosophical mural cycle concerning creative life, psychological and spiritual growth, passages and moments of aesthetic joy as well as carnal and spiritual ecstasy. I have sought to evoke an abstract sense of music through luminous color passages, patterns of rhythm and a transparent flow of veiled and emergent forms. I have also sought to celebrate the body in drama and dance, including conscious and unconscious ways in which we alternately mask and reveal ourselves as social beings. 
Structurally, I have thought in terms of various theaters; stages of consciousness in the realization of the individual and, by extension, communities. In addition, the verticality of the architectural panels has facilitated an interpretation of cosmological ideas indigenous to ancient Central Americans, that of the inframundo below, from which life is rooted and from which it springs (primarily represented in warm reds, maroons and oranges) through the middle strata of daily life in transition (ochers) to the supramundo, upper reaches of consciousness (blue- green), all illuminated in vertical ascension.
In 2015 and 2016 I extended the murals down the side of the building on columns, a frieze and several wider panels.  Whereas a general sense of ascension governed the vertical panels, the horizontal panels developed through a sense of extension.  I thought in terms of the ancient Pythagorean notion of the music of the spheres in harmonic motion in intervals and concentric repetitions, of the drama of love, desire and giving birth, primordial “original time”, joy through dance and flight.  The ancient Mesoamerican idea of Precious Twins (duality, Quetzalcoatl) and El Otro Yo (nagualism) also make an appearance in these panels.
Through this mural I have sought to embrace the challenge that EMAI presents to the community, to become fully realized, expressive and generous human beings, at home with a sense of beauty and expressivity. One need only walk the corridors of this school to sense the will to live in playful joyousness, full of the energy and intelligence that permeates the hearts and minds of young and old alike. Here one senses verve and an abundance of spirit. 
This mural is hereby given to the Escuela Municipal de Artes Integradas de Santa Ana. It is dedicated to artist-musician and scholar, my friend and colleague of many years, EMAI’s Founder and Director, Dr. Jorge Luis Acevedo Vargas. 
May these murals provoke discussion and provide a venue for contemplation. 

Ronald DeWitt Mills de Pinyas
Painter and Muralist
Professor of Art and Visual Culture

Thursday, March 31, 2016

End of Day #11 (2016): Mural painting at the School of the Integrated Arts in Santa Ana, Costa Rica.

Day #11 (2016): Mural painting at the School of the Integrated Arts in Santa Ana, Costa Rica. 

Touching up and putting the final protective coating on the now painted overhead concrete beam (viga).  Having to work around security cameras, but surrounding the side door of the building with murals did bring it together, I think.   This last detail took much longer than I thought, in part because I was partially blocking the doorway with scaffolding and so had awkward access.  Done now.  Whew.  

Why birds?  Aside from obvious symbolic reasons, one day last year I was struggling with what to paint when pigeon poop landed at my feet.  Many nest over the site of this last stretch of murals.  Sometimes they land on the patio and sit, unafraid.  Add to that, the winds on site, particularly in the morning makes the birds fly around, often hovering, sometimes diving here and there.  Inspiration comes sometimes in obvious ways.  In any case, I used an abstraction of birds as a motif and a shameless decorative element.  

The opening of my watercolor show is tonight and then a little packing up tomorrow and I fly back to Oregon on Saturday. 

See more of my work at

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

End of Day #10 (2016): Mural painting at the School of the Integrated Arts in Santa Ana, Costa Rica.  

Today I taught a class session for Aquinas College about the mural and the embedded themes in it.  It was fun.  I spent the rest of the day refining a few areas and preparing and finally painting a large  and long concrete beam over the side door of the school.  It served to unite two sides of the project.  I ran out of light this evening but took a few shots.  I will add some veils of glaze in the morning and call it good.  The decision to use the birds, palomas in this case, is because there are so many overhead as I paint.  They also play well thematically and are fun to paint.  

Also see:

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

End of Day #9 (2016): Mural painting at the School of the Integrated Arts in Santa Ana, Costa Rica. I took Day #8 out to go with my colleague and research partner, Jorge Acevedo, to visit old friends in the Terraba and Boruca indigenous communities. Am back working on the mural today. I touched-up and applied acrylic varnish on finished areas. I also worked on the installation of the watercolor show. More of the same tomorrow, but it is nearing completion.

I am including a before and after shot of the work this session below.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

End of Day #7: Mural painting at the School of the Integrated Arts in Santa Ana, Costa Rica. A day of dabbing, details, making adjustments to this and that -- and of taking new documentation with a Nikon D5000 (instead of my trusty iPhone). The shots in today's post are of all parts of the six-year project, including some details. Apologies if you already have seen some of this. 
My son Ruben Mills today worked on video documentation with more to do tomorrow. I still have a few details to attend to but the whole thing is feeling rather tight right now, and so I am growing more confident and happy. All of the new work will be coated with a special satin sealer-varnish to protect it. I will post again next week. The formal inauguration will be held in November. 
In a related project, I am showing some of my postcard watercolors in the adjacent gallery--as if anyone needed more Mills-Pinyas art right now. Images from that installation tomorrow or so. 



Friday, March 25, 2016

End of Day #6: at the School of the Integrated Arts in Santa Ana, Costa Rica.
There is plenty of detail to keep me busy for a few more days but the bulk of the decisions are done and fixed in paint now. The two large panels of shadowy figures play well graphically, I think, and fit with the notion of primordial, even primal drama, hot dance and life-inspired theater...implicit issues in this mural. Also eroticism, flirtation, love and birth are touched on again and again—the play of human drama at the base of artistic expression. Jorge and I had a delicious conversation over lunch and a good cabernet about all of this. We have decided to have the inauguration in November when my family can be here (and perhaps someone from Linfield, where I teach). We are planning a publication of some sort, looking for good writers or a poet...
It is very hard to get still photos of the work that really capture the optical scan that being here provides. Taking my friend Jerry Jensen's advice, I am asking my son, Ruben Mills, to shoot video of the entire project. Today I measured the walls and was surprised to find that the entire six-year project covers roughly 2400 square feet, of which I will have finished 745 in 2016. 
I am including a few details from the drawings on the columns in this post as well as the second shadow panel.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

End of Day #5: Another full day up and down the scaffold at the School of the Integrated Arts in Santa Ana, Costa Rica. 
I continued to work on the upper tier, I drew figures on the columns and lay in the shadow imagery on the ochre panels. A good day in terms of unifying the overall design a bit more. Another day on the shadow imagery and other touch-up and refinement and I can start to detail a few things further. 
The imagery on one of the panels was a bit, well, nude.  (I do love life drawing!) My good wife Isabel pointed out that children would see it and so, as a good husband I took a deeper look and transformed the image in terms of the Origin theme I started with, here about biological origins, romance and sex in a procreative sense. I added imagery to underscore this reading. I should add that the local folks are not terribly prudish, in fact my sponsor, Jorge, says the mural panels that do contain a fair amount of eroticism, have not drawn criticism at all. Still, I am grateful to Isabel for leading me to consider the wider topic at hand.