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Paint Encinitas column: ‘When art inspires conversation, it’s doing its job’

Artist Micaiah Hardison had been working at home on his new mural installation, “Encinitas Harmony,” now displayed at the Moonlight Beach 7-Eleven at 105 W. D St. It’s a 40-foot-wide triptych, unified by redwood heart-shaped framing.

People have admired and been attracted to the mural since its Jan. 17 debut — and it has also stirred up a wealth of good conversation. Hardison wanted to represent his hometown in a way that felt honest to him, and he didn’t hold back or water down his perspective of Encinitas.

The center image depicts an iconic Encinitas sunset. It was painted directly on the rough-textured stucco wall during the one-week installation.

This image is flanked by fine art paintings that were applied to linen inside Hardison’s studio, and then transferred to giclee on 60-inch- by-96-inch aluminum panels.

The right panel depicts two “hippies” enjoying a sunset in front of multi-million dollar homes on the bluff in Leucadia, the northernmost community of Encinitas.

“Leucadia is marketed as a funky hippie town, but in reality most of the hippies got priced out of the community decades ago, and the funk no longer meets the city code,” Hardison said.

Hardison’s work shows the disparity between the thriving multi-millionaire “haves” and the tenacious “have-nots” who actually can’t afford to live here, but still do. These are the locals that Hardison relates to, having slept in a truck for a considerable portion of his life just to be able to “stick around.”

The left image in the triptych art installation depicts Mexican fishing panga boats making a predawn beach arrival on the shores of Cardiff, the southernmost community of Encinitas.

According to Hardison, this intrepid group of hopeful immigrants is eager to get to work building a better future for themselves and their families.

“I have always been inspired by the bravery, humility, honesty and work ethic of this segment of our community,” he said.

For the models, Hardison asked a few friends who had themselves crossed the border illegally and are now productive locals with growing families and businesses. He even built a faux panga in his yard for reference.

When art inspires conversation, it’s doing its job. The uncomfortable truth is that, whether we turn a blind eye or embrace them, Encinitas has undocumented workers.

Living in Encinitas is an amazing experience. Whether you are rich or poor, white or brown, local or migrant, there is something that beckons all of us to live, work, and play by this ocean, an ocean that belongs to everyone.

Hardison has courageously captured a heartfelt, human and distinctly homegrown perspective. We at Paint Encinitas, a group I started to bring about more murals, are honored to have unveiled “Encinitas Harmony” as our third mural project.

“The beautiful thing I wanted to convey,” Hardison concluded, “is that, especially at sunset, we come together to marvel at God’s beauty and are all equals sharing undeserved blessings, connected with nature and appreciating the common reason we are here.”


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