THE STORY OF A PRAYER FOR AMERICAN DEMOCRACY
or HOW JULY'S PAINTING CAME TO BE
The day after the 2016 presidential election I was stunned. I kept going over the vote count state-by- state. My neighborhood was as engulfed in gloom as it had been joyous after Obama’s first win.
The second day I considered my options: despair, emigration or an extremely long nap. Ultimately I decided to become more politically active.
For the first Women’s March I made a series of downloadable posters people could print out and carry. That continued for other marches and is on-going. I charged a small amount for the first posters, but I soon realized I wanted them to be free.
Around that time Indivisible was hosting an event featuring Senator Bob Casey, State Senator Art Haywood, and State Rep. Chris Rabb. I was running late so I grabbed my keys and hightailed it out of the house. When I arrived the church was nearly empty, and my first thought was “Oh no! They’re going to be so disappointed!” Turns out I was an hour early.
I introduced myself to the organizers, asked if I could help set up, and was tasked with making signs. (Is it that obvious??) After we finished, I asked if they knew who was running for state offices, and who, if anyone, was working on those races.
It turned out Sen. Art Haywood and others had been strategically identifying “flippable” seats in PA. Some seats hadn’t even had a Democratic challenger in years! Art’s group enlisted the strongest, most progressive candidates they could find to run, formalized their initiative as TurnPABlue, and organized to win those races.
I offered to host meet-greet & fund-raise events at my studio gallery space.
The first post-election event was for now-State Senator Katie Muth. I offered to make her some non-traditional campaign posters, and we identified two images she liked (both abstract, bless her heart.)
Another event was “speed-dating for Reps” for six women running for State House. It was great fun and a joy to meet such an inspiring group of candidates. The money raised was shared equally, and they worked collaboratively on their campaigns. (Women. Need I say more?) I did posters for another candidate, as well as one for TurnPABlue.
Four of the six speed-dating women won, plus we added four dynamite women to our all-male Congressional delegation. Chrissy Houlihan, Mary Gay Scanlon, Madeleine Dean and Susan Wild wasted no time when they got to Washington, and I was pleased to learn that recently Mary Gay (already a committee vice-chair) read the Mueller report into the Congressional Record.
The past few years during my meditation time I often find a thought arising from a deep place and know I must go to the studio immediately. I put a large sheet of paper on the floor, fill the water jars, prepare my paints and dive in. These paintings proceed somewhat differently than other work. I feel as if my arms, hands and eyes are being borrowed, in part because, if I think about where to go next or what color to use, it never happens that way. Colors get set down that I would not normally juxtapose. Brushstrokes go where I do not intend. Compositions emerge that I could not have imagined.
My memory is that the tax bill passed on a Friday, because I recall being outraged all weekend, ferociously angry in an out-of-character way. I knew I needed to transform that energy into something productive, and action with conscience is prayer.
During my meditation Monday morning an idea arose. I went to the studio immediately and A Prayer for American Democracy was born.
I communicate more articulately in paint than in words. Sometime I hope you can see this painting at full-size, but even at calendar-scale, I hope the image conveys the energy and deep feelings from which it was born.