Covelo Man

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This is a portrait of Native American Indian Ben Wright, painted from a photo in the book Families: A Pictorial History of Round Valley, 1864-1938, with permission from editor Floyd Barney. To me this painting is a shout-out to the human spirit’s ability to retain dignity and self-worth, carving out one’s own identity, against all odds. Created in my signature style – a charcoal/pastel wash mix.

Titled COVELO MAN, I see this image as representing the classic, historical California feel of a true legend, a true hero. Movie stars of Hollywood can’t even come close to the real life depth of spirit and character of the people from Covelo, CA . Ben Wright is one of many brilliant souls who lived and died on this land. I listen to stories of what the Native Americans have seen in their time - the heaven and the hell. For me, COVELO MAN is a like a Covelo icon and represents the truth of this place. He represents to me those who have lived here past and present, (many against their own will)  and many who have shown extraordinary courage, resilience, beauty, soul, and against all odds, a powerful spirit of hope.

This painting is a humble tribute from my heart to all peoples in the world who live with the dark truth of genocide in their family and tribal history. I deeply honor the magnificence of the human spirit to be able to rise up from the darkest hell. Somehow, despite the obvious ongoing greed, warfare, and dark ugly reality of the human condition, the heart is clearly tuned to create an energy of self respect and dignity, and supports a vibration of peace and soulful beauty that shines on forever, no matter what.

Surely sacred spirits of the past live on in the energy of Covelo, Round Valley, the valley I call home. I feel those spirits every day, whispering through the ancient Valley Oaks, like wise elders. These oak trees have been standing guard for hundreds of years. I hear Spirits singing gentle songs of sorrow and joy in the breeze and in the running creeks. And I can’t help but think to myself… “Oh my– the stories they all surely have to tell.” This valley has made me a true believer in the depths of the human spirit.

Many descendants from Ben Wright’s family still live here today on the Reservation in Round Valley. I feel honored to have been given the permission to paint from the Families Book: A Pictorial History from 1864-1938 of Round Valley. Thank you to editor Floyd Barney and to June Marie Bauer (daughter of editor Elmer Bauer) for granting me the permission to draw from the Families Book so many years ago. They both really encouraged me to paint the valley and the people and the animals. I am so grateful for all of the tremendous local support over the years. I love you Covelo. I strive to bring honor and respect to the deep heart of this valley - and to the truth, past and present, of this special land.

The abstract circles seen in COVELO MAN are my symbols for what I believe to be some kind of “linking past to present”— a generational link of sorts. I’ve repeated this symbolism in various paintings over the years, and of course I always welcome the viewer’s own imagination and interpretation.