The sprawling and gorgeous Diego Rivera mural “Unión de la Expresión Artistica del Norte y Sur de este Continente” (The Marriage of the Artistic Expression of the North and of the South on this Continent) is 22 feet high and 74 feet long, but somehow it still manages to exist in semi-obscurity.
Now, with hopes of bringing it to greater prominence and perhaps a new, more accessible location, NBC Bay Area reports that the work has been fully digitized for the first time.
"My mural will picture the fusion between the great past of the Latin American lands, as it is deeply rooted in the soil, and the high mechanical developments of the United States," Rivera wrote in 1940 when he painted the mural on Treasure Island in anticipation of the Golden Gate International Exposition. After its debut, the work — often referred to as the Pan American Unity Mural — was bound for an as-yet-unbuilt City College library. But World War II put those development plans on permanent hold, and the mural languished in storage.
Eventually it was placed in the lobby of the City College's Diego Rivera Theater. But retired professor Will Maynez, an unofficial keeper of the work who counts himself as one of its biggest fans and advocates, doesn't think the Pan American Unity Mural receives the pride of place it deserves.
For one thing, it's impossible to stand far enough back to take in the mural as a whole. In the long term, Maynez would like to see it moved, but for now, he and CCSF were content to invite the digital archivists at Cultural Heritage Imaging to document the work.
Four days, some scaffolding, and 1,500 images later, Rivera's mural was reborn, this time digitally. Cultural Heritage Imaging captured the mural in such detail as to make each nick in the plaster behind the paint visible in 3-D.
As City College seeks to attract students amidst relative institutional turmoil, Mayez sees Rivera's mural — in it's current, digital, and possible future forms — as a strong symbol of the place. "This mural should be leveraged into getting these kids here," Maynez said. "City College needs students, these students need to be in college. This mural is a way to get them on campus."