Wintertime has dampened my nighttime roaming and kept my photography a little closer to home of late. But as a famous photographer once said, though I can’t recall who it was, and I’m afraid I must paraphrase, “You can find plenty of beauty to photograph right in your own backyard.” That idea has stuck with me for decades.
It was easy to dream of faraway places growing up with National Geographic’s fantastic photography from around the world, and I did. But I live in a remarkably beautiful area right here in Northern California and hearing that idea expressed in an early photography class I was taking helped me appreciate the beauty already around me.
I’m usually drawn to the nighttime magic of our gorgeous North Coast’s natural landscape, out where the starry skies glitter overhead without the interruption of humanity’s ground lights. But it is also rewarding to direct some attention a little closer to my home, especially when the weather is inclement. I find myself attracted to the mural paintings on the utility boxes around Eureka, the many instances of public art beautifying the city as part of Eureka’s Strategic Arts Plan (https://www.eurekart.org).
On the corner of Myrtle Avenue and Fifth Street, just outside of Pacific Outfitters, is an undersea triptych painting on a trio of utility boxes that has attracted me for some time. Brought to life by the hand of local painter Dakota Daetwiler, the three-piece work of art creates an undersea world featuring local marine plants and animals in a joyous celebration of life. Dakota worked with the input of Pacific Outfitter management, who she said hoped she would represent the local undersea world off our coast.
Three electrical utility boxes form a canvas for Dakota Daetwiler’s undersea triptych mural featuring local marine life. Find it next to the Pacific Outfitters parking lot at the corner of 5th and Myrtle in Eureka, California. Photographed January 16, 2020.
Daetwiler is a self-taught painter born and raised in Humboldt County. Most of her inspiration has come from a fascination with reading. As a kid, she “read hundreds and hundreds of books.” Her artistic journey has rewarded her passion with success but it isn’t always easy to learn on one’s own. Her message to others finding their own way would be to not give up in the face of setbacks.
“This project was a huge learning experience for me,” she told me, “as the first time I put the wrong clear coat on them and almost a year later I ended up having to re-paint them entirely. I was in tears seeing how much they'd deteriorated. But I'm nothing if not persistent!”
A little research revealed the secrets to painting a weather-resistant image onto metal, and with perseverance and determination she re-painted the entire triptych. Take a moment to walk over to see it in person next time you stop by Pacific Outfitters; it’s just across the grass lawn from their parking lot.
Daetwiler has a store in Ferndale, where you can explore a wonderland jam-packed in riotous profusion with the fruits of her talent. Stop in some time at 431 Main St. or visit her online at PaintingsByDakota.com.
Dakota’s triptych is the second art utility box I’ve photographed in Eureka in what I’m calling a series, though it’s only a pair of photographs as yet, with the intention to photograph a few more or so. The lighting isn’t favorable at all locations, though, and some are a bit too close to traffic to get the best angle. I’ll have to play it by eye and see how it develops.
To keep abreast of David Wilson’s most current photography or peer into its past, visit or contact him at his website mindscapefx.com or follow him on Instagram at @david_wilson_mfx .