50-year anniversary of compelling historical mural in Point Loma
by DAVE SCHWAB
Published - 08/10/21 - 02:15 PM | 12417 views | 6 6 comments | 37 37 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The second section of the mural includes, from left, Cabrillo’s ship, traders and early settlers of San Diego, Point Loma Lighthouse, and the Spirit of St. Louis. COURTESY PHOTOS
The second section of the mural includes, from left, Cabrillo’s ship, traders and early settlers of San Diego, Point Loma Lighthouse, and the Spirit of St. Louis. COURTESY PHOTOS
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San Diego from 1769 to 1969, by Jorge Imaná. The mural is 63 feet long and 7 feet high. It is on the west side wall of Zino’s Hair Designers, at 2168 Chatsworth Blvd.
San Diego from 1769 to 1969, by Jorge Imaná. The mural is 63 feet long and 7 feet high. It is on the west side wall of Zino’s Hair Designers, at 2168 Chatsworth Blvd.
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Zino Bongiovanni outside his family’s building and business, Zino’s Hair Designers, standing beside Jorge Imaná’s mural.
Zino Bongiovanni outside his family’s building and business, Zino’s Hair Designers, standing beside Jorge Imaná’s mural.
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The late Bolivian artist Jorge Imaná in his La Jolla studio.
The late Bolivian artist Jorge Imaná in his La Jolla studio.
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Zino Bongiovanni first met Ivan Imana outside his Point Loma hair salon known for the large-scale San Diego history mural painted on the side of the building by a renowned South American artist in the ’60s.

“He was taking photographs and he was crying,” said Zino of his encounter a few years ago with the son of Bolivian artist, Jorge Imana, who immigrated to San Diego before painting the historic mural on the west side of the building at 2168 Chatsworth Blvd. “I said, ‘Hey, what’s up?’ [Ivan] said, ‘My dad painted that mural and he just passed away and I have a lot of emotion.’”

Fast forward to the present. Having previously received Ivan’s number, Zino texted him once Ivan’s dad’s mural had passed the mid-century mark in age. “[Zino] told me, ‘It’s been 50 years since your dad painted this, shouldn’t we do something?’” said Ivan.

That informal commemoration of Jorge Imana’s 52-year-old San Diego mural occurred Friday, July 30 with a press conference and soiree at Zino’s International Hair Designers.

“My dad painted this mural in 1969 for the 200-year anniversary of when Cabrillo discovered San Diego,” said Ivan, noting memories from it “came flooding back.” 

Ivan said his most vivid memory of his dad’s Cabrillo mural, painted in the summer of 1969 “was seeing my dad on ‘Sun Up San Diego’ on Channel 8 being interviewed by co-host Regis Philbin. It was a big deal because my dad was on TV.”

Imana’s bicentennial mural was commissioned by the building’s owner, David Fleet, a real estate developer and the son of Ruben H. Fleet, for whom Balboa Park’s space theater is named. Back then, Jorge Imana’s mural was dedicated with much fanfare when it was completed, capped by the presentation of a special award by then-Gov. Ronald Reagan.

An art collector who befriended Imana, Fleet built the Chatsworth Building and Imana’s gallery, Artists Showroom, in the space now occupied by Zino’s. Imana eventually purchased the building from Fleet and later sold it to Point Loma Bank. It was purchased by Zino in 2001.

The 7-foot-high, 63-foot-long mural tells the 200-year history of San Diego starting from the settling of San Diego and the establishment of the San Diego Mission by Father Junipero Serra in 1769, to the majestic arc of the Coronado Bride opened in 1969. Depictions in the mural include Indigenous Kumeyaay/Diegueno people, the Point Loma Lighthouse, a U.S. Navy ship and sailors, Charles Lindbergh’s Spirit of San Diego, the California Tower in Balboa Park, polio vaccine inventor Jonas Salk, tuna fishermen, a surfer, and a lunar lander representing the role San Diego aerospace companies played in the U.S. space program.

Asked about the impact of his dad’s mural on San Diego, Ivan noted: “I hope they appreciate the history of San Diego, the way my dad and David Fleet did. The mural itself has been around a while and has an interesting history all its own. I’m glad to be able to tell it again.”

Added Ivan, “That mural is one of the key things my dad would be very proud of, especially because it’s being talked about after his death. That mural and dad’s relationship with Fleet was the reason I was born and grew up in San Diego. My dad’s relationship with Fleet had such an impact on the trajectory of my family.”

Born in 1930 in Sucre, Bolivia, Jorge Imana’s work has been exhibited in galleries, museums, and cities around the world including La Paz, Paris, Madrid, Moscow, and Barcelona. His paintings hang in the Bolivian Embassy in Washington, D.C., and Moscow, as well as in several South American museums and art galleries.

Zino’s is a full-service, high-end salon. As such, Zino said he feels a special kind of kinship with Imana and his mural. “The stylists who work at Zino’s Hair Designers are artists in their own right,” he said. “We just have to update our works of art every four weeks or so.

”Of his dedication to Imana’s mural, Zino concluded: This work belongs to San Diegans. I’m just the security guard.”

“I’m blessed,” added Zino, of the historical mural adorning his building. “I get to pull up close to it every morning. Every time I look at it, I notice something new, yet every detail in it is iconic San Diego.”

 MORE ABOUT THE MURAL SAN DIEGO 1769-1969

    • Commissioned by the late David Fleet, son of Ruben H. Fleet.

      • David Fleet was a real estate developer and built the building at 2168 Chatsworth Blvd.

    • Painted in the summer of 1969 and completed in time for the City of San Diego’s Bicentennial Celebration.

      • Jorge Imaná received a special award from Gov. Ronald Reagan at the dedication of the mural in 1969.

  • Artist: Bolivian artist Jorge Imaná, 1930-2016.

  • About the artist:

    • Born in 1930 in Sucre, Bolivia.

    • A naturalized U.S. citizen, he died in 2016 in La Jolla.

    • His work has been exhibited in galleries, museums and cities around the globe, including La Paz, Paris, Madrid, Moscow, and Barcelona.

    • His paintings hang in the:

      • Bolivian Embassy in Washington, D.C.

      • Bolivian Embassy in Moscow, Russia.

      • Museo Nacional de Bogota, Colombia.

      • Museo Nacional de Arte, La Paz, Bolivia.

      • Ministerio de Educacion, Managua, Nicaragua.

      • Other murals are featured on buildings in Bolivia and Peru.

  • Awards:

    • Anteo Golden Medal for Lifetime Achievement in 2004.

    • Condecoration Gold Medal Mariscal Sucre in 2006 for outstanding contributions to the arts and culture of Bolivia.

  • Family:

    • First wife, Gladys Brun, died in 1966.

    • Imaná had two sons with Brun: Jorge Imaná, Jr., (deceased); and, Ivan Imaná, 56, of Mequon, Wis., a corporate travel company executive.

    • Jorge Imaná’s brother, Gil Imaná, was also a famed Bolivian painter and muralist. He died in January 2021.

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So glad to see this piece of history preserved. Jorge was a wonderful man and my grandfather was happy to commission this mural.
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