It is difficult for art student Ananya Goel ’24 to describe what she was feeling when she first saw the massive Prometheus mural in Frary Dining Hall. Powerful and emotional are just a few words she used when reflecting on a visit to campus for Family Weekend, when her older brother was a first-year student.
“When I visited Pomona College in my senior year of high school, I had the chance to eat in Frary Dining Hall, and was stunned by and compelled to stay in the presence of the mural. I remember being intimidated by the looming, graphic piece, but I was also awestruck. As a matriculating Pomona student, one of the things that I was looking forward to was actually being able to see the mural more often and analyze it as an art student.”
Prometheus was painted in 1930 by Mexican artist José Clemente Orozco. Pomona students arranged for Orozco to come to Claremont, where he lived for two months in a campus dormitory while working on the painting.
With her interest sparked, Goel applied for and received a RAISE award to do research at the Benton Museum of Art at Pomona College focusing on the context and interpretations of Prometheus and, more broadly, public art. Goel says that through the project, she “learned to do an in-depth analysis of a large-scale work on my own terms. That is to say, regardless of other perspectives, I learned to take my research and unify it with my artist’s understanding of the work. For those who know about the importance of process and critique in art, this work really refined my approach to art critique and my own process as an artist.”
Exploring this piece of art and working with the Benton Museum has been a valuable experience for the Pleasanton, Calif. native. The Benton is not only a venue to view and interact with art, but as a teaching museum its collections and exhibitions also intersect with academic curriculum. Goel calls it “an amazing example of a multifunctional space: it is structured as a museum, a classroom, and fundamentally, as a versatile resource for students.”
“Ananya is a joy to have in the museum. She is really good at stepping back and seeing the big picture. I really appreciate that her questions are the kind that make connections between the work we do at the Benton to the entire museum field as a whole,” says Salim Moore, assistant curator of collections at the Benton.
And while much her time is spent studying art and finding those connections, Goel is interested in a range of subjects like math, English, economics and philosophy. Her journey to the College might have begun with Frary’s awe-inspiring Prometheus mural, but the liberal arts curriculum of Pomona also allows her to pursue art in its different forms while engaging with many different paths of knowledge.