A couple of months before Jerry Brown took office as mayor of Oakland an aide asked me if I’d be interested in depicting Jerry on the streets of Oakland for possible use as a book cover.
I began a panoramic painting at 14th and Broadway that was so large ( 40” x 84”) I had to paint it in two sections. I placed Jerry stage left, lit by afternoon sunlight, as if by a floodlight, facing city hall. I would later place myself in the shadows, stage right.
I joke that Jerry was my most difficult model. Jerry, who is born the same day as me (several years earlier), is as impatient as I am. He had trouble standing still and disappeared about halfway through the session. He wanted to see if De Lauers was carrying his most recent book. I had some trouble getting him back in position. I joke about this, but I was, and am still, impressed that a political figure of his stature would pose on a corner for a street artist.
The painting accurately represents a phase of Jerry’s career which began when he moved to Oakland and hosted his popular program “We the People” on KPFA. His command of progressive thought, his accessibility and enthusiasm are all evident in this work – as is a certain unconscious, patrician demeanor.
Jerry is governor once more. The ‘era of limits’ that he prophetically proclaimed in his first administration is upon us with a vengeance. No one is better qualified to take on the challenge.
Since his last administration, national wealth has migrated to the top. Today one percent of the country holds 24% of the wealth. We have not seen such a disparity since the beginning of the Great Depression. It is a principal cause of our financial crisis. Higher taxes on the wealthiest individuals and corporations, including oil corporations and banks, would help to rectify this situation. The wealth could be redirected into emerging green technologies as well as into our threadbare educational and social programs. If done right this might jump start our moribund economy. Jerry is one of the few politicians with the courage to do this, but only if ‘ we the people’ can deliver him a voter base that will agitate for and support this policy.
The book for which I created this painting never materialized.
Sometime later, local poet, critic and radio host, Jack Foley, chose it as the cover of his ambitious and engrossing work “Foley’s Books: California Rebels, Beats & Radicals published in 2000 by Pantograph Press.