Object Lesson: Forever mural by Odili Donald Odita

Odili Donald Odita created Forever in 2011.

Commissioned in honor of NOMA’s centennial, Forever is a large-scale wall painting by the Philadelphia-based, Nigerian-born artist Odili Donald Odita. Extending 150 feet, the mural contains 87 colors, calibrated to respond to the physical space and changing light of the McDermott Lobby.

The title conveys the impressions of dynamism, musicality, and continuity Odita gathered from spending time in New Orleans: “I want to create a wall painting that shows the jubilation of life and culture, that spirit, that vitality of New Orleans,” he said. “New Orleans is an accumulation of different histories and cultural groups, all of which coexist in a vibrant patchwork.”

The idea of “crossroads” or moments of decision plays an important role in Forever. The artist explains that this includes “crossroads of class, race, culture, and crossroads of space. In the face of calamity, New Orleans has found ways to survive and has made many choices as to what it will become.”

The work is comprised of three main zones: on the southern end bright colors streak in like rays of morning light, conveying the impression of beginning. On the center wall, two planes of color converge at a centerfold, in a butterfly or mask-like shape. On the third wall, toward the north, vertical vectors imitate the forms of a forest or curtain veils.

Odita’s palette for the mural, which draws from skin tones, political concerns, and Mardi Gras Indian suits, should not be regarded as strictly representational. Rather, it is a summary of emotional states and experiences. The white background penetrates the colorful designs, articulating Forever as a wall painting, distinct from a work on canvas.

NOMA is committed to uniting, inspiring, and engaging diverse communities and cultures through the arts — now more than ever. You can support NOMA’s staff during these uncertain times as they work hard to produce virtual content to keep our community connected, care for our permanent collection during the museum’s closure, and prepare to reopen our doors.