Staff Pick | Monthly Muse August 2020
I was struck by this painting by Tom Craig, first by its color and use of light—that pool of gold under the dust kicked up by the plough—and then by the quiet labor of the scene. I grew up in rural California and this moment reflects back to me the California I know: a California with the flavor of middle America, forgotten, overlooked, marked by this same kind of difficult and often lonely work. I’ve passed hundreds of times driving the 41 from the Central Valley toward my home in the mountains. This scene reminds me of Philip Levine’s poem “Our Valley,” in which “when the worst heat seems to rise from the hard clay / of this valley, you could be walking through a fig orchard / when suddenly the wind cools and for a moment / you get a whiff of salt . . .” I taste the salt in that dust cloud—is it dust, or the spray off an ocean wave, shrinking our state down, connecting coast to valley to mountain?
Project Analyst and Executive Assistant, IMCA