October 25, 2017 – A story of two bears

Annie and Eric’s two bears.

Last weekend poking around online, I came upon a New York Times interview of Tom Hanks.  It’s entertaining and charming – like he is.  He’s just written a book of short stories – Nora Ephron was his writing coach; she admonished:  “voice, voice, voice!”  The part that has stayed with me isn’t so much about his book or his take on Harvey Weinstein and Donald Trump.  He said something about himself that has given me a new piece in support of my commitment to a return to beauty in our world.

His interviewer asked him if it’s hard when everyone expects him to be nice.  He responded:

“I think I am! I’m sorry!” he says, laughing.  “I think I give everybody a fair shake.  But I will tell you this, and there’s plenty of people who can attest to it, don’t take advantage of my good nature, because the moment that you do, you’re gone, you’re history.  I mean, look, I’m not a sap.  I’m not naïve.  At least I don’t think I am.  I understand that part of it is my nature, part of it is my DNA, part of it is the sum total of everything I went through, and it came out O.K.  But part of it is a choice that just says, How do I want to spend my day?  How do I want to spend these hours, pissed off at something or you just kind of let it roll off you.  But don’t take advantage of my good nature because if you do, it will come back to haunt you and you will hear from me in no uncertain terms.  I’ve yelled at people.”  Even used vulgarities.

Especially for people in the public eye, it’s quite acceptable to be edgy, snarky and sarcastic.  We almost expect it.  I have to believe that this has contributed to the derision and division we are experiencing. There is a belief that if someone is kind and genuine, if they reveal themselves that they will be taken advantage of or ridiculed.  Given this, I really like what he said.  A lot.  He’s a really nice guy and isn’t ashamed of it.  But I also really appreciate that this isn’t all.  He has a gate keeper, a protector for his niceness.  We assume that if someone is nice they’re defenseless – and Tom Hanks is not.

Then another thing came across my radar.  Artists Eric Rewitzer and Annie Galvin, of 3 Fish Studios in San Francisco, are friends of my dear friend Pamela.  We all sat at the same table at Pamela and Gerry’s wedding years ago.  We reconnected through my artist friend Kathleen Lipinski, who happens to be Eric’s cousin (I love our small world) when Eric showed his art at the Sausalito Art Festival the past few years.  Last week I was on Facebook and learned they launched a fundraiser for relief efforts for those impacted by the fires here in Northern California.  In two days they sold $50,000 worth of Annie’s “I Love California” prints!  And with a friend’s matching funds are donating a total of $100,000!  One HUNDRED thousand dollars!  (Here’s the story from the SF Chronicle.)  They asked for volunteers to help print, trim, package and ship all these sweet bear prints.  Super inspired by them and wanting to play in all this goodness, I did a stint to help out in their studio on Monday afternoon – when I had the chance to ask Eric about his California Rising bear appearing in Time Magazine.

In response to the election of Donald Trump as president, Eric carved another bear – a roaring bear showing its teeth and claws.  Annie painted California poppies along the bottom and scripted the words published by the leaders of the California Legislature the day after the election:

“California was not part of this nation when its history began, but we are now clearly the keeper of its future.”

One thing led to another and Kevin de Léon, the leader of the California Senate spent a couple of hours in their studio, sleeves rolled up, as Eric pulled a print of the bear.  Sometime later, a Time Magazine reporter was in de Léon’s offices in Sacramento working on the story of California’s resistance to the national political sea change when they went to deliver Senator de Léon’s California Rising print.  The next visitor to 3 Fish Studios in the City, was that Time reporter.  The article begins:

Like many of the other nearly 9 million people in California who voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016, artist Eric Rewitzer reacted to Donald Trump’s victory as if a tornado had swept his house away.  “I just didn’t believe he was serious,” says the longtime San Francisco resident.  “And I didn’t see it coming.”  As disbelief gave way to sadness and then anger, the bespectacled printmaker found himself sitting at the table in the middle of his studio just blocks from the Pacific Ocean.  He and his wife are known for their prints of a sweet “California bear,” a version of the grizzly on the state’s flag that likes to give hugs and sells very well at airport souvenir shops.  But after he spent 40 hours carving and pressing a giant sheet of linoleum, a vastly changed animal appeared—roaring, teeth glaring, claws out.  “You’ve stirred a beast,” says the usually sweet and soft-spoken Rewitzer.  “Watch out.”

I believe that we – purposefully – have both of these bears in us.  The thing is, though, most of us are wired to express one or the other.  So, it’s inspiring, riveting even, when we reveal the parts of ourselves that we don’t ordinarily show.  If we go around roaring and clawing all the time, the world pays attention when we are kind and gentle.  And If we, like my heroes Tom Hanks and Eric and Annie, are genuinely nice people, the world pays attention when we step up – even when we show our teeth – when it truly matters to us.

California Rising keeping watch in my studio.

No reasonable person would say that the world needs less kindness, sweetness and genuineness.  3 Fish Studios is shipping thousands of huggy bears because of our nature to care for each other.  But earlier this year they shipped out a whole lot of the rising bear too.  It’s also our nature to be fierce – even if it’s not expected from some of us.  I had a college roommate call me “Corny Cara” because of the silly songs I’d sing all the time.  I’ve spent a lot of my life believing that I wasn’t powerful, or as powerful.  When I look at this postcard sitting here on my painting table of the rising bear, I feel that bear in me – the one who will stand up for life, for beauty in all the ways I experience it.

The power of art.

With my love – and my ferocity,


One comment

  • Pat Gentry

    Wonderful, inspiring writing. Thanks for posting!

    October 25, 2017

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