We hopped in the car and drove to Hemet, California to see one of Milford Zornes' masterworks. It's a fresco done in 1942 along with his students from the Otis Art Institute and it's pretty spectacular.
It takes up a whole wall and measures roughly 18 feet high and almost as wide. Lori Van Arsdale met us and showed us around. She's the current president of the Ramona Bowl and a very impressive lady. The famous pageant, the venue and everything is run by a non-profit civic organization as it has been since 1923. The pageant is put on annually with an all-volunteer cast of hundreds and The Ramona Pageant has been named California's Official Outdoor Play. It's got a great history and is a wonderful experience.
As Lori explained to us on camera, Milford and his students painted this exquisite fresco depicting the characters and sights in the pageant from floor to ceiling on the back wall of their then brand-new office. Unfortunately it wasn't too many years later as they were expanding and planning on making room for a gift shop that someone got the idea of whitewashing over the bottom 5 feet! Apparently they were short on space and needed to put some cabinets up against the wall. So, maybe with thoughts of protecting the Fresco, they covered it over. Today it's behind the gift shop in a narrow space with a staircase leading to the second floor of their museum—and the display cases are still in front of the whitewashed bottom of the painting.
Lori and her team have been working with Hal and Maria Baker (of www.MilfordZornesNA.com) to find a way to get it restored…and of course relocate those cases! It looks like quite a task since the hallmark of a Fresco is that it is actually painted into the wet plaster. They're consulting with master fresco artist, Mr. iLia Anossov of the Fresco School, who has called Zornes' Ramona fresco a treasure. Anossov has been featured in Architectural Digest and in museums and galleries all over the US and Europe. They are in good hands!
Whatever you do, don't call it a MURAL! We learned that a mural can be almost any medium on a wall but only a fresco is painted into the wet plaster. iLia's website at The Fresco School, has lots of great information on frescos. I suggest you see it in person to get the full impact of it size and artistry. But Gene Sasse also has a wonderful photo of it. In Gene's photo you can see the bottom of the currently truncated fresco which shows how Ramona's dress—and the bodies of other characters at the bottom—are all cut off.
After a brief tour with Lori, everyone else arrived and we had a good day shooting in the Southern California outdoors. Hal and Maria Baker (She's Milford's daughter) and Frank Zornes (Milford's son) and his wife Marsha joined us. A very amiable group--and there was lots of reminiscing.