Two things happened recently.
First, I spent a week exploring and painting along one of mainland California’s most remote and mysterious coastlines. Missile launch silos. American flags. Chain of command and all that. But this painting isn’t about that trip at all except for one detail. One morning on the beach, miles from the nearest pavement of any sort, I came across some paw prints on the beach. I’d heard of mountain lions on this coast, and somehow I always pictured those cats, well, up in the mountains. The thought of one of these majestic beasts with sand stuck between its toes got my imagination working.
Second, I was asked to come paint live at a fundraiser for a friend who’s running for elected office here in Humboldt. He’s commissioned artwork from me in the past and I ate an unwholesome amount of snacks at his Superbowl party one year without even watching the game. I have no way to know whether he’s the perfect fit for the job he’s seeking, but I do know that over the years he’s been a supporter of artists like myself, so while that means I am certainly biased, it also means he’s been a meaningful part of this community’s culture long before seeking public office.
I’m not a fan of political gamery at any level and try to steer clear at all costs. But then again, I’ve never had a collector or personal friend ask me to come and paint at their political fund-raiser before, so I didn’t give it much thought and next thing you know I have to figure out what to paint at a fancy politics party.
How do I get myself into these situations?
And then I remembered the mountain lion that prowled through my thoughts on that beach a few weeks earlier. It just felt right. Those cats are apex critters if there ever were, and truthfully politics is a game of apex aspirations. But what good is apex power without honest self-reflection? It’s no good at all, that’s what. Disastrous even. So our mountain lion stands over a tidepool, its silhouette reflecting in the clear waters below, revealing a vibrant ecosystem beneath the surface.
I know that sounds a little corny, but that’s what I thought about while painting this one.
And my hope for my friend and everyone else that seeks public office, is just what this painting portrays. That it’s not about just how to win and score points and use the power you seek to shape the world as you want it, but to also honestly reflect on your role in your community, our community. I can only hope that those who seek power will also take the time to look within and find the clarity to see all of us staring back in your reflection.