Mary Daily | Photo by David Esquivel
Judith Baca has come home.
The renowned muralist’s latest monumental work celebrates the campus where she spent her career. The nearly 80-foot mural, titled La Memoria de la Tierra: UCLA (or The Memory of Earth: UCLA), on the north side of Ackerman Union, was unveiled in April and represents almost three years of work. The first of the mural’s three 26-foot-long glass panels depicts the Westwood area long before UCLA existed, and reflects Baca’s primary interest: how land holds memory. The second showcases thought leaders who have influenced students and transformed the university; the third illustrates how fields of study — scholars and thinkers — transform the world.
“It was a remarkable journey to figure out how to do this during a pandemic,” says Baca, professor emeritus of the departments of Chicana and Chicano and Central American studies and of World Arts and Cultures. “We were painting entirely on screen, working remotely in a new methodology. This is the very first piece of this scale printed in this way on glass with minerals. Forever, when you see this work, you will not be able to ignore the fact that it was made in the middle of a pandemic, and in the middle of a social justice movement that transformed our country.”
For Baca, the mural represents the capstone of a lifetime of teaching. “It is a visualization of my struggle to engage my students in real work in the world, asking the arts to do more than simply be decorative. Seeing the finished work for the first time was magical.
“My vision,” she says, “was realized.”