Last week I stood on a picket line, located up Huntington Canyon. My reason for being there was to take pictures and to gather research for a painting I wanted to create. As an artist, I wanted to do my best to document the Co-op Mine strike the best way I knew how, on canvas.
Being in such a beautiful location, and being able to feel the ugliness that was present underground there in that canyon, sent mixed messages to me. Do I focus my attention to the beauty of the canyon or the mistreatment of my fellow man? These are some of the tough decisions I have to make to make before I approach a canvas.
I come from a union background; a heritage that goes way back in the hills of West Virginia. Yes I'm proud of my relatives and my up-bringing. But yet, it is that same heritage that makes me realize that this is not about being union or non-union. It is about compassion for humanity.
I experienced so many things that day in the canyon. I will have to take into consideration a couple of different feelings when I start the painting.
First of all, how do I make something so sad and real seem so appealing on canvas? I do this by remembering all the proud faces I saw that day. Faces that could have belonged to any of us, and many times did belong to me. The unity and dignity those people displayed that day, for standing up for something that they believe in, touched me deeply.
I believe that people need to be very tolerant, and compassionate, when it comes down to the hopes and dreams of other people, for it might be all they have. Just remember the history of Carbon and Emery counties and where most of your hearts lie.
Second, how do I drum up the inspiration to paint this piece? It's easy. I think of the beauty of the canyon and I have my backdrop for the composition. I think of all of the positive reasons why those people have stood out there, in adverse conditions all winter, and why they are still standing there today. That alone makes me want to some how tell the world how proud of them I really am.
To me, wanting higher pay, better working hours, and safer working conditions doesn't sound like to much to ask for. I will do all in my power, to put down on canvas, an image that will be stored in time. It will be a painting that will represent these striking miners and their cause: simply asking to be treated with dignity and respect.
By the way, if you happen to be driving up Huntington Canyon to experience the beauty of the scenery this spring, slow down, maybe even honk your horn in support of people standing up for what they believe in.
Personally, I'll be thinking of all of you while I paint this historical event. I appreciate people who have room in their hearts for the idea that all individuals have the right to better themselves, and to those who might even go a little further by helping those who try.
Now, I can paint.