– Bob Bahr reporting, Editor PleinAir Today –
Jonathan Luczycki had mixed feelings when he heard that he would be driving into the middle of a Donald Trump political rally in Eugene, Oregon. But he went with his gut, and painted outside of it, and he’s glad he did. Why?
Lead Image: Jonathan Luczycki chats with a Trump supporter at a Trump rally in Eugene, Oregon. Photo by Alison Elliott
“It was very exciting, watching this on the news for almost a year and then being there and seeing it in person,” reports Luczycki. “We were scared to go there at first, because we had heard about what has happened at some rallies. But my girlfriend and I soon saw that it was OK, and I set up the easel and started painting. We weren’t wearing anything that indicated our opinion, for or against him or Bernie Sanders. We were approached by both Trump and Bernie people who both thought we were on their side, so it was like we were undercover. I have to say this: The Eugene police were incredibly nice and handled everything so politely. One thing I really liked is that it was very civil in general. For the most part, there were civil discussions between people with different points of view.”
The traffic was backed up, with estimates saying that there were as many as 4,400 Trump supporters and perhaps an equal number of protesters. Luczycki had to park a fair piece away and walk toward the rally. He painted at two spots, following the crowds as the protesters moved to engage the Trump supporters.
“We were walking around, and the energy was amazing,” says Luczycki. “There were nasty things being yelled on both sides. At one point it looked like a car show in L.A., with crowds on both sides. There were flags on cars, and bumper stickers, and those provoked high fives or rudeness. I have to admit, there was a small part of me that wanted tear gas to come out, and I was actually premixing yellow ochre in case it did. It was a scene, with police lights, silhouettes — it was just stunning. And I was the artist in the middle, showing both sides.”
One reason Luczycki was ready for whatever came his way is that he is quite comfortable painting nocturnes. In fact, he is surprised that most artists don’t do them. “You just need a headlamp or a full moon, and you have light that doesn’t change for eight hours,” he says. “It’s great.”
Luczyicki says he felt that he was painting something relevant and vital by painting something current — an approach that painters have embraced in centuries past. “You can’t tell what time period it is with much landscape painting today,” says Luczycki. “Yes, once it got darker it started to get a little sketchy. There were protesters from a nearby college, and some slurs were thrown around. It was hard to watch. Majestic mountains and riverbeds are what many people stick to, and I like painting those too — but this was the complete opposite. The energy! It was one of the most enjoyable plein air experiences I’ve ever had. I feel like it is important to paint stuff like this — not just things that you feel are beautiful.”
“Maybe I’ll get a police scanner,” he joked.