Thursday, June 20, 2013

The Murals

Original Pilgrim Center
now an administrative building
In 1974, my father, Lyn Ott, was approached by James Cox to paint murals for his planned construction of a Pilgrim Center in India - a Center meant to provide accommodations to pilgrims traveling to Baba's samadhi that was mandated by the Trust Deed left by Meher Baba. The full story that lead up to this need is interesting in itself, but I will save it for another page at a later time.

When James approached him, my father was nearing retirement, his eyes were failing, and he explained to James that he could not work safely on a scaffolding, and he could only paint under controlled lighting conditions that would be almost impossible in such an environment. Thus a plan was conceived whereby he and my mother, Phyllis Ott, would work as a partnership to paint paintings in the studio in Myrtle Beach, SC, and these would later be installed in the pilgrim Center. So while the final result was not "murals" in the pure sense, the term "murals" remained due to their origin of thought. They were really paintings, done on canvas, with an ingenious design to glue them to cement panels that would become permanent fixtures of the walls. James agreed it was a good idea, and Lyn worked with architect Ted Judson on the sizes of the canvases, and the design of the building was literally crafted around the murals and their installation.

One can see these murals here.

During the year of 1975 my mother and father worked in harmony to stretch and paint the seventeen canvases that would tell scenes from Baba's life, often with symbolic elements, for the Pilgrim Center.

It was at this time that my parents asked me to paint the animals. Thus there were in fact three painters: my father, my mother, and me.

For a long time I have kept some very poor-quality photos taken of me helping with the murals, as I drew and painted the animals. They have barely survived the long years in hot moist environments, shot on an inexpensive black and white polaroid instamatic camera. But they are all I have and wanted to preserve them and share them at the same time.

Recently I had them scanned so that I could include them here. I rarely talk about myself on this blog, but here I wanted to highlight these images because I am very proud of them, capturing a very happy time of participation in my parents' work at the age of 15. You can click images to enlarge them quite a bit.

The first photo shows my family in Myrtle Beach at the time, me, my father, mother, and sister Leslie, standing between the poles my father constructed to hold the large canvases in place to paint.

Below is me drawing the lamb that appears in the canvas titled "Peaceable Kingdom." Mother would tell me what animal to do and where it would go, and I would provide thumbnails for her to approve one. The drawing of the lamb was entirely my own, but the over-painting of it was entirely by my mother. I think we got short of time as we were on a schedule.

This is the lion I drew for the same canvas. I did it partly from photos and partly from a trip to a zoo where I sketched a living lion.

Below is the completed result. Baba by my father, the children by my mother, the lion and the lamb by me. 

The image below shows me painting next to my father. It is helpful to enlarge it by clicking to see our hands. It was very hot in summer and that is why I had no shirt. 

That is all I have from that time. The paintings were installed in India five years later in 1980, and I was there to help the architect Ted Judson install them -- I was 20 by then.

Below is the painting I am most proud to have been included in its painting, as I think it is a great painting. It is also the most collaborative of the paintings. It is titled "Repose in the Garden." Mehera is painted by my mother, Baba by my father, the tiger, the turtle, and the chipmunk by me, the dog (based on a dog named Teri belonging to Laura Delevine) and the bird were by my mother.

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