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Gainesville artist gets 'Lowe'

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Posted: Thursday, September 2, 2010 12:02 am | Updated: 12:30 am, Thu Sep 5, 2013.

Last Friday, Mayor Craig Lowe came out, again, and in brilliant colors.

Gainesville's first openly gay mayor has been immortalized by one of the city's most enigmatic artists, Tom Miller, and the portrait was unveiled at local gay mecca University Club.

Miller, a 44-year-old jack-of-all-trades who calls himself a "shitty artist," has painted prominent Gainesville figures before, including former Mayor Pegeen Hanrahan and former Police Chief Wayland Clifton.

But for Miller, this portrait hits deeper and is more personal, an homage to someone he sees as a local hero.

"He is somebody who will listen to anybody in this town no matter who you are or where you came from," he said. The portrait is a mixed-media piece that depicts the mayor as a strong, proud figure, standing with his arms crossed and his head looking forward and up, as if to the future.

His body is a black and white picture pasted over large, horizontal stripes of the gay flag colors. His tie has been cut out so that the underlying colors shine through.

"This is my way of honoring him and letting him know that the artists in town like him, or at least I do," Miller said.

Lowe proved himself to be the man of the people that Miller thinks he is and appeared at the unveiling, staying for some time afterwards to speak with the attendees.

"It's very nice," Lowe said of the painting. "I'm flattered that Tom would want to do a portrait. He's been in the community a long time."

Lowe said it's been an honor to serve the people of Gainesville and, while he doesn't make it a focus of his career, his openness about his sexuality has been a positive and never something he's tried to hide.

"I'm proud to be a member of the LGBT community, and on a day-to-day basis it doesn't impact the way I conduct my job," Lowe said, "except that I do seek to uphold equality for all people of all backgrounds and faiths in discharging my duties as mayor."

Miller's work was not the only art on display that night. Various works - drawings, paintings and mixed-media - were displayed by local artists Victoria Fleming, Donald Posey and Chaz "Chastity" Rose.

Rose works as the door manager at UC and said the turnout for the event was great, bringing people into the club who otherwise wouldn't be customers.

Before being unveiled, the portrait of Lowe was covered in gift wrap. Before tearing the wrapping away, Miller asked Lowe to stand before the crowd, and as he introduced the painting, told Lowe he earned his vote and was proud to have him as a mayor.

Miller hopes people find it inspiring and said, when he was painting it, he thought of all the qualities Lowe brings to the table.

"I see a person who has surrendered their privacy and made a commitment to this community," he said, "who wants to do good things and please Gainesville."

The portrait is on sale for $400 and remained hanging at the UC until Wednesday.

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