Jules Tavernier and the Elem Pomo Tribe
Recently I was looking at the current exhibitions running at the De Young Museum in San Francisco, and I came across this intriguing painting by French born artist Jules Tavernier. (link to the video at the bottom)
At first it was the beauty of the painting that captured my attention. Tavernier's use of light to create a sense of intimacy with the viewer and draw them into the scene is masterful. Then as I read on about the exhibit and the artist, it was the story of Tavernier's purpose and the plight of the Pomo that captured my heart.
You see, this painting was painted at a ceremonial dance held by the Pomo in their homelands at Clear Lake, CA. Clear Lake is located about 3 hours southwest of where I live, and I have driven past the lake many times. I'd always heard that the lake was polluted and the fish weren't edible but didn't have any idea why.
In the background of this painting, you can see several representatives of the Sulphur Bank Quicksilver Mining Company observing this event. Later, the company would develop mines that caused widespread mercury contamination and poisoning in the area of the lake on the ancestral lands of the Elem Pomo tribe.
I will never drive past that lake again without thinking of the brave people who still live there and struggle to maintain their heritage and their birthright. My deepest respect goes out to all of them.
This painting is a wonderful example of how art can affect our lives in such diverse ways. I will be in San Francisco later this month, but unfortunately I will miss seeing the exhibit as it's only up until April 17, 2022.