I originally completed the Apocalypse mural at Johns Hopkins University in February 1969. It was commissioned by Dr. Chester Wickwire, Chaplain of the Johns Hopkins University. A crew of artists and I have been working on restoring this mural since May 2015. It must be completed by August 20, 2015 when the students return. Although we have been making great progress we still have a very long way to go.
Dr. Bob Hieroniumus, 1969
The major difficulty resulted from changing to a water-based paint, instead of oil-based for the gold and silver colors. The fumes from the oil-based paint are dangerous, and especially in regard for the children who share the space for the Johns Hopkins University tutorial project, we decided to switch. At least 50% of the mural is covered in gold and silver. Using water-based paint, we found we had to apply three coats each to cover over effectively. Worse, the ceiling of the mural, the most difficult to paint, is covered in at least 70% gold and silver. Having to paint so much of the mural three times over again has been an exceedingly difficult task, and it has forced us to increase our schedule to working seven days a week to get the job done on time.
Check our website for the first update on the restoration progress and more background on the meaning and interpretation of this mural, plus an introduction to the artists I have entrusted to rebirth this piece. This Progress Update is divided by artist and the sections they have concentrated on to show our progress through the summer.
Before they began working on this restoration project all the artists had to prepare with a mini-course in Symbology 101. They needed an introduction to the mural's meaning, its history and why it is so controversial. How its use of symbols tells the story of how, why, and who was responsible for the destruction of the democratic republic of the United States and who turned it into an oligarchy which gave the power to the 1%, and denied the 99%, the We the People, their right to self-rule. They were all given copies of my research and a booklet that detailed the mural's meaning and interpretation. They all got a copy of The Dictionary of Symbols by J.E. Cirlot. They each received a box containing 144 images from the many hundreds of photos and slides taken of the original 1969 mural. These photos included the changes forced on the mural by Johns Hopkins University without my knowledge. They also were assigned to read articles on the mural and reviews.
All of this material was given freely, not to expect them to believe any of the information, but because it was important they know the origins and the struggle to keep this public work of art in existence. They also got to see the 1971 PBS documentary "Artist of Savitria" that shows me talking about this mural and my approach to creating art for public consciousness-raising. After all this preparation I was assured they knew what the mural was about and how it came into being. None of the artists worked for less than $20/hour, a higher wage than most artists get, and which none of them had been paid before. We felt it important to give value for value.
On May 15, 2015 we entered the Fray!
The heart of the mural depicts the American Eagle with a broken right wing (the right wing of the Republican Party) from which fire and water flood the Statue of Liberty and bridges on both the West and East Coasts. The American Eagle is sinking into the sea and the names of the corporate powers that dominated America in 1969 when the mural was original (and continue to dominate today) are found covering the body of the eagle. America is no longer a republic, meaning our representative democracy has become an oligarchy. Corporate power is vested in the 1%, a dominant class whose patriarchal philosophy is domination. Their success will be short-lived, however. Nature will take care of them, and the 99%. Above the dying eagle is a purple spiritual eagle, which is rising to the ceiling and eventually turns into a Phoenix. In time, America will be reborn!
The first image here is a newly resurrected heart of the mural, done under my supervision by Julie Anne Horton, MFA, MICA. The remaining photos show our crew of artists and the areas of the mural that they are each responsible for resurrecting. For the most part they each got to choose which section they wanted to work on, but in nearly all cases, members of the entire crew contributed a hand in the redrawing and some of the painted details elsewhere when needed.
The most important soul of this incarnation is my beloved wife of 35 years, Dr. Queen Zohara. She is a wise soul who knew we were to join forces when we first met. She was aware of my purpose in this life and from the very beginning gave me the glorious freedom to focus on what we needed to accomplish together as a team. From this bonding a great deal of good and sacred work has been accomplished, including this 2015 restoration of the Apocalypse Mural. My wife Zohara is the lead funder of this project, and we are all eternally grateful to her for her generosity of spirit.
Click images to enlarge.
The entrance to the Apocalypse mural is a stairway, and on each side are stones 1.5x3 feet in size that serve as the foundation for the ancient temples of Lemuria and Atlantis. These stones were said to have been covered in precious metals of silver, gold and bronze. Our foundation stones have lost their alleged metals and are a reddish stone bearing other sacred elements. I wanted to recreate them and put a little "magic" into them.
Justin Williams, Ph.D. is the foreman on the Apocalypse Mural Restoration project for 2015, just as he has been for several other mural project and artcars I've worked on in the last few years. He has turned into one of my dearest friends and co-workers, and I have depended on him to get the job done at all costs. He always delivers!
Justin C. Williams, Ph.D., foreman
Born in Boston, Massachusetts in 1962, Justin C. Williams began practicing art as a young child. In 1986 Justin graduated with a Bachelor's Degree in architecture and design from the University of Wisconsin and then worked for two years as an industrial designer in a Milwaukee-area firm. In 1996 Justin returned to drawing and painting, following several years away from practicing art while he pursued a graduate degree in systems analysis from the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland. Since the late 1990's his artwork has focused on several themes. His work has been shown in solo and group exhibits in Anchorage, Alaska, Milwaukee, and Baltimore. A complete portfolio of his work can viewed at the Facebook site "JCW Artwork". Justin has had the pleasure and good fortune to work on four of Dr. Bob's other public art projects including restoring the "A Little Help From Our Friends" mural (2008), his "We the People" art car (2008), a live painting performance at the Wind Up Space in Baltimore (2009), the "We the People" mural (2013), and the restoration of the "Apocalypse" mural (2015).
Justin chose to focus on the stairwell of the Apocalypse, depicting the lost continents of Lemuria and Atlantis and their demises.
The first photo shows a little of what he was faced with in restoring this area:
The following images show he returned Poseidon to his former glory.
After Justin completed this area he continued his contributions, and overseeing the crew making sure everyone stayed on schedule. He is an excellent problem solver!
One of the most difficult areas to recreate on the Apocalypse mural was the main wall. We call it the American Eagle wall. This was undertaken by Julie Anne Horton, MFA, and she completed it on July 28, 2015 as seen here, with all but the dedication panel complete.
Julie Anne Horton, M.F.A.
Julie was raised in Zanesville, Ohio and received her BFA in Painting and Art Education from Ohio University. After living and working in Seattle, Washington, she returned to the East Coast to attend graduate school in Baltimore, Maryland. She earned her MFA in Painting from the Maryland Institute College of Art. She is currently painting and teaching in Baltimore, Maryland.
Here is what the main wall looked like before Julie began her work
The following photos show how she accomplished this difficult task.
Another MICA-trained artist who has assisted me in previous projects, is Ashley Pratt, BFA, who worked with us on the "We the People" mural restoration in 2013. Ashley was always the most colorfully attired of our team! She is also full of practical ideas as to how to get the job done efficiently and she shares her ideas selflessly.
Ashley Pratt, B.F.A.
Ashley's canvas is often edible, as she was trained at Charm City Cakes and worked professionally at La Cakerie as a cake decorator. Ashley earned a BFA from the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) Magna Cum Laude in 2014. She studied under famed American painter Vincent Desiderio at the New York Academy of Art (NYAA). Pratt's paintings range from hand held memories to work bigger than she. Ashley worked under Dr. Bob's tyranny in 2013 on the We the People mural.
Ashley undertook the difficult task of recreating the Isis Temple. Just take a look at what she was faced with in the first photo, and how she completed it over time in the following photos. Ashley Pratt restored the temple of the Goddess!
We were blessed by hiring Kristie Winther. Perhaps it was her MICA training that gave her the confidence and drive to recreate nearly an entire wall of the most challenging problems. From the very first day I saw her work I remarked on her no-nonsense, quiet and deliberate attention of getting the job done. She was among the fastest and most accurate artists I've ever worked with, and these are invaluable skills when working with such a tight deadline.
Kristie Winther, B.F.A.
Kristie grew up in Mastic Beach, New York, and attended the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA), where she received a BFA in Painting. She lives in Baltimore and works as a freelance mural artist, scenic painter, and community artist. Her work is inspired by nature, sensuality, and historic textiles.
Just take a look at the mess she had to transform in the first few photos showing the Christos-Gnosis Alcove. She perfectly recreated it, and see how well she accomplished it in the remaining photos.
Kristie worked so efficiently that she was able to also recreate the Osiris Alcove which can be seen in the before and after in these last two photos.
During the first month of the mural restoration project Ashley Stafford joined us only as a part time supplemental assistant. A month or so into the project we had to hire her full time because without her help we wouldn't be able to complete the restoration on time. Ashley concentrated on the landing level of the stairwell depicting the end of the Lemurian civilization and the rise of the Atlantean civilization.
Ashley Stafford has lived in the Baltimore area her whole life. She is a self-taught artist, although it certainly helped that she came from a family that places great value in artistic pursuits. She has experience as a painter and illustrator in both traditional and digital media. She started working in the field painting murals with her older brother about eleven years ago. She is currently working as a freelance digital comic book artist and illustrator. In the future, she would like to be able to work full-time on her own mixed-media comic series.
The before photo indicates that every inch of the Atlantis temple, its flooding and coded lettering, needed to be repainted. The following photos show how she mastered all of its elements. Note how much gold and silver were needed and remember, at least three coats of each were needed to do the job. Once she finished the stairwell landing, Ashley put her energies into Noah's Ark as seen in the last photo.
Andreina Mijares Cisneros is a visiting student from Venezuela who joined our team as a non-paid intern to earn credit for her work as a student art major at Notre Dame of Maryland University. After we saw photographs of her work, we knew she was more than qualified to join our team, but the fact that she wasn't paid for her time really saved our budget from crashing into the pit. She always brought great joy to the work, with her ever-smiling face and her precise work – she has been a real gem to work with.
Andreina Mijares Cisneros, Studio Art Major
Notre Dame of Maryland University, 2016
Andreina Mijares Cisneros was born in Caracas, Venezuela in 1992. From a young age she moved to Tours, France with her family where she lived for 4 years, and was constantly exposed to European art through her parent's love for art museums. She then returned to Venezuela where she graduated from High School. It was not until she was accepted into the United World College located in Montezuma, New Mexico that she began her studies in art and developed a passion for painting and drawing. She is currently completing her Bachelors of Art with a concentration in Studio Art at Notre Dame of Maryland University in Baltimore, Maryland.
Andreina tackled the Sphinx and Lemurian wall, and the two "before" photos show what she was up against. Note the enormous amount of gold and silver paint in these sections, and how both required a minimum of three coats of paint.
The following images show how Andreina progressed with this wall showing humanity's evolution from a hermaphrodite state to the separation of the male/female sexes so very long ago. Andreina's time and energy were a great support to all of us on this restoration.
The ceiling in the main room of the Apocalypse Mural was nearly covered in gold and silver. Early on we knew this was going to be a greatly tiring task because painting while craning your neck backward with paint dripping into your face grows torturous quickly. We tried rotating each artist to this section to share the pain. Originally in 1969 I did the whole ceiling by myself from a ladder and I remember very well how much paint (oil based back then) that I got in my hair, my eyes, and ears. For this restoration, Johns Hopkins University loaned us a scaffold on wheels that was a great help, but because we had to do a minimum of three coats on almost the entire ceiling it took three times longer than any other location.
None of the artists ever complained about this behemoth part of the task, but I knew we had to hire another artist to focus on the ceiling so the main crew could finish their selected areas. Fortunately for us, Jonathan Gherkin was available and he came highly recommended as someone who was fast, accurate and could take a beating. Jonathan became our "hired gun," or in baseball terms, our "closer." What a relief it was when he proved he could take it! It meant we could get the mural finished by our deadline of August 20th.
Jonathan Gehrkin was born in New Orleans, Louisiana in 1985. He is a candidate for BFA in Painting at the Maryland Institute College of Art, class of 2017. He is a veteran of the United States Army where he served as a helicopter maintainer from 2006-2012. He currently lives and teaches art in Baltimore, Maryland.
The first photo shows Jonathan getting his paint in proper consistency to begin painting.
The following series of photos show how Jonathan attacked the ceiling from the chair on top of the scaffold, as well as on various ladders and how he had to climb down to the floor again and again to check his progress from a distance.
Notice how the majority of the ceiling is painted in gold and silver, meaning it all had to be painted at least three times over! No doubt, Jonathan's service in the United States Army prepared him for the discomfort and fortitude needed to complete this job.
As noted, the greatest drain on our energy, time and budget was the ceiling in the main room, which contains a zodiac, winged-bear carrying a serpent, phoenix, Poseidon riding his sea horses, and the Apocalypse great pyramid. When we arrived to begin painting after the repair crew had fixed the cracks and holes, we were horrified to discover the greater percentage of the celling in the main room was covered in white plaster. It was an enormous shock! The first photo shows Justin Williams surveying the damage and realizing we had an area that needed mega-attention.
The ceiling is painted in about 70% gold and silver and in order to switch to the safer water-based gold and silver, we were forced to use at least three coats of paint to cover it properly. If we'd stuck with the more toxic-oil based paint, we would have been finished weeks ahead of our 8/20/15 deadline, and we would have saved tens of thousands of dollars, and the crew would not be exhausted from working seven days a week. My team wouldn't give up, however, and dedicated themselves to do the honorable thing. We wanted to prevent the odors that come with oil-based paint that would have permeated the space for months to come, and children use this room as part of the CSI-Tutoring classes. That's just one of the reasons that my crew were the best team I've ever worked with. It was truly a heroic feat, but as the saying goes: "No good deed goes unpunished."
In order to share the burden of painting the ceiling three times over, each of the artists took turns periodically working from this uncomfortable angle. After a few months we realized we had to hire another artist, Jonathan Gehrkin to give his full attention to the ceiling, and now he goes it alone, so that the rest of our team can tackle the other areas that were left untouched until now.
The heaven world on the ceiling contains the following symbols:
There is still much more work left to complete the ceiling's story.
Each member of the team gave it their best!