Mary Anna Pomonis, Mouawad’s Magic Section, performed for One Night Stand: Walpurgisnacht, organized by Michael Arata and Doug Harvey, Beacon Arts Building, Inglewood, April 30, 2011
In the dead of Walpurgisnacht, the springtime equivalent of All Hallow’s Eve, during which witches are said to gather and the veil between the living and the dead is at its thinnest, there was magic afoot at the Beacon Arts Building, currently home to an enchanting retrospective of the work of Michael Arata. Arata and exhibition curator Doug Harvey had organized what Arata hoped would be his last One Night Stand, a hedonistic group exhibition and backyard party. As Grand Warlock of the evening, Arata grilled hot dogs emblazoned with his name, and demanded a drawing as payment for each dog. Approved drawing topics: pets, virginity, reproduction, and magic.
Upstairs, artist Mary Anna Pomonis was making her own magic. In contrast to the gleeful sausage fest that was taking place downstairs, Pomonis’ serene and incantatory performance, Mouawad’s Magic Section, honed in on the multiple facets inherent in a diamond, and how the opposing forces of discord can be “crystallized” and transformed into a state of harmony.
As an homage to the pagan theme of Walpurgisnacht, Pomonis created an elemental ritual using red sand and river rocks. On a square sheet, she first laid out some rocks in the shape of two opposing arrows, referencing the symbol for the Roman goddess Discordia. After pouring the sand over these rocks, she slowly re-arranged them into the shape of a diamond, recalling the symbol for the opposite goddess, Harmonia. The diamond also referenced the ancient Masonic symbol and Pomonis’ own ongoing interest in the properties of gemstones. A diamond painting—inspired by the famous Mouawad Magic Diamond, whose flawless emerald cut contains two opposing triangles—hung on the wall nearby, acting as an additional focal point. The shape of the opposing arrows remained on the sheet as a ghostly imprint.
The large mandala that was created by this process was quite beautiful, and the artist herself made for a striking image as she walked around it barefoot in a long red dress. When the red sand had been depleted, Pomonis used black sand to form the letters “CU” at the center of the mandala. “CU” is both a deconstruction of the capital letter “G,” found at the center of the Masonic symbol, and a playful reference to sight. She then gathered the four rocks laying at the corners of the sheet and placed them atop these letters, completing the positive integration of Discordia into Harmonia.
The performance concluded with Pomonis repeating the following mantra, adapted from a Catullus line, numerous times: “Let those love now, who have never loved before. Let those who love, love forevermore.” As she spoke these words, she swept her arms in an encompassing circle, forming diamonds with her hands when they were at her belly and above her head. The power of repetition gave these words more resonance the longer she went on.
I thought this piece was a lovely invocation of goddess mythology, the healing power of ritual, and the transformative power of creation. Adding even more pagan mojo to this scenario were two nearby sculptures by Ross Rudel: a three-headed penis totem and an old European-style witchy broom, all the better to ascend to Brocken with and celebrate fertility under the moonlight.
* Thank you to Mary Anna Pomonis for patiently explaining this piece’s layered symbolism to me. For more on the fascinating and very personal back story of how she got so interested in diamonds, check the artist’s website. For more images of Walpurgisnacht mayhem, check Doug Harvey’s blog post.