Jersey City goes way back with its Hispanic roots and this wall which is situated at La Conguita, a long established part of the downtown JC Hispanic community since 1967, was the perfect location for an artist like Mata Ruda, who thoughtfully considers this community in nearly all of his work, to paint a mural here. The mural itself, in the words of the artist “explores the things displaced migrants and refugees conceal and carry with them throughout their life, [which is] the very foundation of which immigrant communities are made.” For many immigrants the destination is the journey and here within the mural the anonymous universal immigrant, who can represent anyone and any nationality, faces us with eyes cut off so we can place ourselves within him, a tiny hummingbird at his heart proudly embracing his home… after all home is where the heart is. The imagery itself of the mountain peak references “the allegory of the native Genesis story of the Volcano Irazu of [Mata Ruda's] hometown of Cartago, Costa Rica:
Two Indian lovers from rival tribes fall in (forbidden) love. Upon discovery of their love the furious king (Cacique) kills and buries his daughter’s lover. The king was not only angry, he was sad, and because of that he couldn’t bring himself to kill his own daughter, so instead he condemns her and turns her into mist and fog for eternity. Over time the grave of the dead lover grew reaching for the sky until it eventually was able to caress and cradle the mist, his love, Irazu, for eternity.
Today [Irazu] is still active and the crater full of mist, yet every once in a while when the mist clears for a few moments the peak of the volcano is the only place where both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans can be seen from the same spot. [Again], the journey is the destination, seeking elevation and refuge, migrants move mountains.”
For this massive 200 foot long wall that faces Kane Stadium Nanook, LNY, and Mata Ruda paid particular attention and homage to those whose who originally inhabited the land where Secaucus is now located, the Lenni Lenape Native Americans. In the words of the artists the “mural is a compilation of different flowers native to New Jersey as well as the Monarch butterfly, a symbol of migration for the Americas as it moves north to south during its lifetime. These symbols of locality and movement are weaved as the background and broken by a Diamondback Terrapin Turtle on the right side, a species native to black swamps and marshes and by a series of silhouettes. These silhouettes are all taken from a First Nation’s Powwow and speak to Secaucus’ Lenni Lenape history and also of the idea of a Powwow or social gathering which is echoed by the Kane Stadium location of the mural. Inside these silhouettes [they] recreated one of George Catlin’s paintings in greyscale. Catlin was the first 1800′s American painter to visually record Native American people’s and traditions in the Great Plains, [with this] one of the paintings he made during his travels and in a way serv[ing] as a reminder of the importance of representation and the artist’s role as a medium, witness and active agent in this struggle.”
In collaboration with Mayor Michael Gonnelli and the Town of Secaucus.
This huge joint done by Nanook and Mata Ruda proves that traditional mural painting is always here to stay. Drawing inspiration from Jersey City’s significant horticulture economy during the mid-nineteenth century the mural reflects the gardening industry that the Peter Henderson Company set forth in the community. Capitalizing on Jersey City’s industrial waste and byproducts Henderson was able to furnish his expansive greenhouses with the essential ingredients needed for commercial farming which set forth these easily forgotten gardening operations and contributed to the unique mix of Jersey City’s diverse economy [even though they left no notable landmark buildings or other physical traces of their activities]. The hands at the center of the mural are of an undocumented immigrant in America, referencing Diego Rivera’s painting “The Hands of Dr.Moore” who is transplanting a dissected laurel bay leaf branch (Laurus nobilis – an Ancient Greek symbol of the highest imperial nobility). Meanwhile, the two blocked off landscapes and floral images on either side show the exotic plants that the Peter Henderson Co. grew in fields (right) compared to their natural habitat in Mexican mountain ranges (left), topped off with a gold finch, a migratory bird, again referencing the immigrants that came to the States to work our fields.