If you have visited the Museum's Erickson Building you have probably seen the "Man and Nature Hand in Hand" batik mural hanging in the lobby. It is hard to miss the twelve-foot high by seven and one-half-foot-wide mural when you walk through the front doors, but have you ever stopped to really look at it? I have to admit that I had not paid much attention to it until several months ago when I found a handout in my files about the mural. I made a point to take some time to really study it and was amazed at its beauty. The mural focuses on the county's ten most important crops of 1976 and features many wonderful images that depict our county's agricultural and industrial heritage.
In 1975, Monica Hannasch of Scario, Italy, was commissioned to create a batik mural to interpret the Museum's theme of "man's relation to the soil." The mural was a gift to the Museum from Beatrice Schwartz in memory of her husband, David H. Schwartz, who was active in the Museum's formation and served on the San Joaquin County Historical Society board of directors for many years. Ms. Hannasch learned her craft as an apprentice from leading batik masters in Germany. She served as an instructor at West Coast universities and is credited with introducing the batik art form to California. Many of her works of art have been on display in Rome, New York, and other metropolitan cities. The main headquarters of the Bank of Stockton at Miner Avenue and San Joaquin Street has one of by Ms. Hannasch's batik murals in its lobby depicting Stockton's industries through the years.
Batik is an ancient art form that originated in Indonesia. The designs are made by brushing or drawing hot wax in a pattern onto the fabric and then dying it. The wax, usually beeswax or paraffin, prevents the color from penetrating the fabric. The waxing and dyeing process is repeated, usually from light to dark, until the desired pattern is achieved.
The sun, the source of all life-giving energy, shines from the top center of the mural. Below the sun is the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and the waterways that shape San Joaquin County. Mallard ducks and Canada geese represent the waterfowl that migrate along the Pacific Flyway. The large clamshell dredger represents the reclamation of the Delta.
The Valley Oak tree, which has been cared for by California's Native people for thousands of years, is seen near the center of the mural. Acorns, along with wild game, small seeds, and greens, were important food sources for the Native people. California's state flower, the golden poppy, and the state bird, the California or Valley quail, are represented on the mural.
On the left side of the batik is a warehouse and ship loaded with rice. They represent Stockton's great inland port, which ships agricultural products around the world. Wine barrels and grapevines show the importance of grapes in the history of the County. It was because of William G. Micke's vineyards that the County has Micke Grove Regional Park. His successful career as a farmer and his community-mindedness helped preserve the large grove of oak trees that were donated to the County for a park.
San Joaquin County's agricultural production has changed over time. Crops historically associated with the County include tomatoes, walnuts, almonds, sugar beets, cherries, grain, corn, dairy, and eggs, as shown on the right side of the mural. A harvester symbolizes the County's long history of invention and manufacturing of agricultural equipment. A crop dusting airplane, based on a bi-plane flown by Precissi Flying Service, represents technological changes in agriculture over time.
The next time you visit the Museum, stop by the Erickson Building to view the mural and try to find the honey bee, acorns, doves, and owl.