Diveristy in Friendship
by Antone R.E. Pierucci
When it comes to Masonic artwork, there’s everything else, and then there’s what’s going on at Downey United № 220.
So when Raj Champaneri passed away last June, there was little doubt that his memory would live on inside the lodge, where he’d been a member since 2014. In fact, his legacy there isn’t likely to be forgotten anytime soon: After all, he’s the member behind the show-stopping, Egyptian-themed mural and sculpture that covers the hall’s entire 16-foot-long eastern wall.
Affectionately known as the “Raj Mahal,” the piece includes an 8-foot-tall golden square and compass that juts out from the wall, creating a floating effect. On either side of it are two life-sized sarcophagi, painted to appear three-dimensional. Behind them, the wall is plastered in elaborate hieroglyphs and plexiglass replicas of Masonic jewels.
In 2020, Champaneri explained, “The closer you get to the wall, the more character it reveals.”
Champaneri was an artist and designer outside of lodge, too. Among his creations are his so-called “Exoticmishaps,” a collection of meticulously crafted dioramas of car crashes involving luxury automobiles. Another series was his “Goldgraphs,” images made with paint mixed with ground-up metals and diamond dust. In his career, Champaneri produced works for the likes of Queen Elizabeth and Janet Jackson.
However, at least for the members of Downey United № 220, it’s the Raj Mahal that will live on, a testament to the mysticism and wonder that Freemasonry inspires.
Matthew Reamer (top)
Raj Champaneri (inset and below)
More from this issue:
The Siminoff Temple at the Masonic Homes of California has a history going back over a century.