The Meherbad Project
On 7th February 1996, at 12 noon, the idea came to me to do a mural of Baba's life. I actually wrote this down as a note to myself, which I still have, because it was so surprising to me. There was no place in the Baba world to put such a series of large paintings, but I felt that my job was to do them and that after I died, Baba would put them where He wished. I completed the first one of this series (6 1/2 feet x 9 feet) in March 1998.
Clicking on thumbnails below will display a larger image.
Four years after I began working on my mural project, in 2000, while Bill and I were at Meherabad on pilgrimage, Ted Judson asked me if I wanted to do a series of sixteen mural paintings (each 5 feet x 10 feet) for the dining hall of the new Meher Pilgrim Retreat in Meherabad, India. Of course, I was thrilled. I had been working on my own mural project but didn't mind starting again. I could see that what I had been doing was only a preparation for this project.
Ted gave me the architectural plans for the building, which was just how I was accustomed to working as a sculptor on the site-specific pieces years ago. (Some of my work from that period is featured in the Sculpture Gallery on this site) So by now I had four years to ponder over different concepts for content and execution so I felt prepared and was delighted to get to work.
Before starting work on the mural canvases I had a lot of preparatory work to do. I took the idea of comparing Baba’s life to the hours of the day from one of my husband Bill’s books, Over the Years with Meher Baba. Bill writes, “Now that He has physically gone, the period of His stay seems to have been but the time-space of a gloriously sun-filled day.”
I imagined entering the new dining hall and to my left would be the first mural painting using the dawn colours for Baba’s early life moving down the left side of the hall, into the mid-morning tones, and at the far end into full sunlight. Crossing over to the far right corner, the colours would still be full sunlight, moving back towards the entrance, the colours would progress to mid-afternoon and then the final painting to my right as I stood by the entrance, would be in the evening colours.
In this way there would be a corresponding balance of colours on either side as one walks down the length of the room. I also wanted a balancing of serious and light moods, as well as a balanced representation between East and West. The sixteen paintings are conceived as one flowing work. I knew that I couldn't include everything in Baba's life so I chose moments that stood out to me. First I did a series of sixteen pastel paintings to scale to help me visualize the project and discard what wasn't working. Because the murals are displayed at such a height, I've exaggerated the size of the eyes in many cases so that the viewer on site can feel their impact.
Then I started on the charcoal drawings for the first painting. These drawings were the actual size of the figures in the paintings. As you can imagine, it is important to get the placement of each figure correct on such a large scale work. I then transferred the outline of each figure from the drawings to the canvas and began painting. The mixed technique that I use, egg tempera and oil paint, suits me. Having been a sculptor, I like to work in layers. I employed this process for all the paintings.
The Meherabad Project Photo Archives
Select to view a series of photographs of the Meherabad Pilgrim Retreat's dining hall before construction completion and after the murals have been installed.
Select to view a series of slideshows and background information for the murals on the left side of the Meherabad Pilgrim Retreat's dining hall and some of the preparatory drawings for each.
Select to view a series of slideshows and background information for the murals on the right side of the Meherabad Pilgrim Retreat's dining hall and some of the preparatory drawings for each.