Who's your hero? Is it someone whose heroism is known only to you or someone we'd all recognize? And what makes this individual special to you?
I started thinking about this in a moment of despair this past winter. Being locked in the house and surrounded by news of awful people doing ugly things was weighing me down. I hated spending so much time wallowing in the worst of humanity and decided I needed to surround myself with the better angels among us. I started with Ruth Bader Ginsburg. I wanted a way to honor her life and incredible contribution. I found it lifted my spirits tremendously to be in her company, and it made me start to think about other luminaries I wanted to paint.
There is Greta Thunberg and her powerful contribution to climate activism. There is Emma Gonzalez with that incredible speech (and silence) regarding lives lost to gun violence. There is the stunning vision of the woman known as Portland Athena standing completely naked in front of a fully armed police line. Likewise the heroic image of Grace Jensen I wanted to capture in Power Shift, calmly looking up at the giant screaming lunatic looming over her. Painting these portraits has restored my faith in humanity, and I am immensely grateful for the uplifting gift of this work.
I turned to heroes whose examples echo across the generations like Harriet Beecher Stowe, Madame Curie and Theodate Pope Riddle. And some of my heroes are known only to me or a small circle of family and friends—my mom, Hope Emery, for one: She was a social worker who spent her life helping others. She was an incredible, nonjudgmental listener who loved nature and walking and was game for any adventure. She was a pillar in the community and started many organizations to help make our town a better place.
Focusing closer to home has made me want to paint portraits of other community heroes, and that brings me to an ask/opportunity for you. Think about who your heroes are. Thank one today, or honor someone in your own way. If you're like me, you'll feel better when you're reminded of what's good about us humans. And then, if you'd like to nominate your hero for a possible portrait by me, please send me an email with a photo and a little background to let me know why you've nominated this person. In April, I will choose one community hero to paint!