Friday, March 28, 2014

The Myrtle Beach mural

I have thought of doing a gradual series on trivia about the murals in the old Pilgrim Center in Lower Meherabad, in India.

Old Pilgrim Center, Meherabad
I have not been to India in over twenty five years, and so can't speak too intelligently on how things are laid out today. But the old Pilgrim Center ought not be confused with the newer Pilgrim Retreat where some pilgrims now stay. This is a smaller original Pilgrim retreat that is now used, I understand, for administrative use.

Inside and outside what was once the Dining Hall there are many paintings cemented to the panels designed into the walls, and these have always been referred to as murals, because they originally were intended to be murals in the original sense. In actuality they are paintings on canvas that were rolled up and taken to India and attached to specially designed platforms, part of the original design of the building.

I was privileged to be allowed to help with the painting of them, and so know quite a lot about them. I am not aware how much others know, so please forgive me if I say anything that is common knowledge to those who visit Meherabad often.

For one there are seventeen of these paintings and they cover many themes of Baba's life. They were painted in Myrtle Beach in 1975 and installed into the Pilgrim Center in 1980 just in time for its inauguration. They were part of the design from the building's conception by architect Ted Judson. They are done by Lyn and Phyllis Ott.

The first painting I want to share a little about, giving some trivia, is the one dedicated to the theme of Baba's Myrtle Beach Center.

Click to enlarge. Photo by Ken Neunzig.
This painting is meant to represent the gate entrance to the beach at the Meher Center. The Atlantic Ocean is depicted in the background, with Baba coming through the gate, leading a group of disciples.

A second figure of Baba is on the left, giving messages, and on the far right is Norina Matchabelli.

The three adult figures just behind Baba (over his right shoulder) are Eruch Jessawala, Elizabeth Patterson, and Kitty Davy. Elizabeth holds the key to the Center gate.

Just to the right of Baba is Jane Haynes. The boy tugging on Baba's shirt hem is Charles Haynes, and the little girl to the left (behind Baba's cane) is his sister Wendy. I am sorry to say I cannot identify any of the other figures. These are the ones I am certain of.

One may notice a book hovering over the Atlantic Ocean. This was meant to symbolize the theory that the artists had ascribed to at the time that the missing book that Baba wrote from 1925-26 was in Myrtle Beach. My father even speculated that Elizabeth Patterson, who was then alive, could be the person Baba had privately given it to. It is a fact that the book, sealed in a box, made a trip to the United States with Baba, and disappeared not long after. I don't personally ascribe to any particular theory. I am just conveying what I remember my parents musing out loud at the time when they made the decision to include this unusual element.

Anyway, I hope this makes the next sighting of this painting a little more interesting. From time to time I may add other murals and share what I can remember about them.


  1. thanks for sharing wonderful painting and interesting info...

  2. Paintings doing well...wear and tear happens...but very competent folks have been checking them, bats, ground squirrels and bird nests on the ones around the outside is common. The ones inside are in the dining room where the majority of small music programs, talks etc. happen. They are greatly admired and enjoyed. Only addition to the walls there are two large photos of Baba. The stage is to the center of the right wall as you walk in (platforms and large pink curtain behind).

    1. It is far too long since I saw them to know what their condition might be. Dad thought they would last 700 years easy, as it was theorized that acrylic paintings were virtually invincible to elements, unlike oil that dries, shrinks, and cracks. Also, I half didn't want to mention this, but the linen canvas is glued to asbestos panels (don't worry; it is sealed entirely), thus no rodent or bird will be able to peck full through them or have much motivation to try. As it sounds like from what you say, the squirrels and birds are nesting around them, as the panels protrude slightly from the brick walls they are attached to, and create some nice cracks. The wooden frames were added partly to hide the strange apparatus by which the panels were attached. In fact I believe the panels themselves could be removed if necessary. Ted Judson is the one who knows the intricate details of their method of installation. I only helped him to glue them down to the panels he had had constructed for the purpose in advance. The building was partly designed around the paintings because the idea for the murals was from the conception, even before Ted Judson was hired, part of the vision of the patrons, James and Elaine Cox.