I just wanted to share a few more tidbits from the recent foray out west. The image shown here is from the late artist Eyvind Earle, who I have mentioned here a couple of times before. I have quite an attraction to his graphic style and as we finally emerged on our drive westward from the wide agricultural central valley I began to see how the landscape of the coastal hills of California inspired his work. Golden hills with perfectly crowned oaks placed sporadically upon them were in abundance. It was hard not to see paintings coming to life as I drove through the hills.
Just before these hills, as we crossed on Rte 46, we came across the James Dean Memorial Junction near Cholame, the site where Dean crashed and died in his Porsche Spyder back in 1955. It’s a sparsely populated area with little of note anywhere in sight and it seems like a strange and desolate place for such an iconic figure to have met his end. Not being a big James Dean fan, I wasn’t aware of the place beforehand but found the space fitting in an odd sort of way.
But though there are several other things I could recount here, the one I most want to mention is about meeting Mike and Lilia at the opening . They are from a few hours north of San Luis Obispo and Mike is a police officer in Salinas, a city with a very high violent crime rate. Mike has formed a connection with my work that really touched me, making me feel as though there was a value in it that I had never seen. Mike sees a lot of terrible things in his job. A lot of violence. A lot of carnage, a lot of flowing blood. He has a strong sense of association with colors and it had gotten to the point that the color red was so associated with blood and injury that it bothered him immensely when he came across the color anywhere.
But Lilia and Mike had come across my red trees a while back and the image and the harmony in it helped Mike disassociate the color red from the violence it had come to represent for him. He found great peace in the work and used it to soothe him after his shifts. It was a much better choice for both him and his family than turning to the bottle, as he pointed out to me during the show.
That painting, the first they had ever bought, had also inspired a greater interest in art. Mike is now drawing and going to local artists’ studios near their home, eager to explore more and more forms. It was wonderful to hear him tell his story. You could see how art had affected his life on a deeply emotional level and simply made it better. You could definitely see it on Lilia’s face as she listened to Mike tell the story. If no one else had shown up at that show that night, just hearing Mike’s testimonial to the power of art would have made the whole trip worthwhile.
I really wanted to mention Mike’s story. It makes my work here in the studio feel much less solitary, as though the eyes of Mike and Lilia are present. I consider that my gift from California.