History is a good teacher. It shapes my view of the world today and informs my work as an artist. I firmly believe the the story of our nation will not be complete -or truly instructive- until the many and diverse experiences of life on this continent are told. I applaud all the institutions, formal and informal historians who work to deepen and widen our perspectives.
A Foreign Shore, 2018. Graphite & oil on art board, 10x8".
Apolinaria Maria Guadalupe Lorenzana (c. 1793-1884)
An orphan from Mexico City, Apolinaria traveled 400 miles on foot with 20 other children (all under the age of ten) and two adults to the Pacific Coast where they boarded a ship to California. The sea voyage of another 1,670 miles took several months. These children were sent to populate Spanish pueblos in Monterey, Santa Barbara and San Diego. Apolinaria worked initially as a housekeeper for a Spanish soldier's family in Monterey. As she grew up she gained more skills in teaching and nursing and worked throughout the mission system. Both religious and secular governors in the region awarded her land grants, though all of this was lost when Mexico ceded the territory to the U.S. in 1848. By remaining single throughout her long life, Apolinaria was able to retain more liberty in a time when women's lives were typically circumscribed by domestic duties. Through her unflagging kindness and industry, Apolinaria acquired the title, La Beata, The Pious.
|Homage to Biddy Mason, 2018. Graphite & oil on art board, 6x8".|
Bridget "Biddy" Mason (1818 - 1891)
Biddy was born into slavery in Georgia. She walked thousands of miles in migration with the Robert M. Smith family she was enslaved to. The Smith's peregrinations led her and her three daughters, Ellen, Ann and infant, Harriet across much of the continent before going down the Mormon Trail to Salt Lake. Eventually they all moved on to California, but Smith decided to depart when slavery was abolished there in 1855. Biddy and her children escaped from him and gained freedom in 1856. In 1959 Biddy became a medical assistant to Dr. John Strother Griffin in Los Angeles. As she acquired skills and became established in the community, Biddy served as a nurse and midwife. She shared her resources with a generous spirit and continues to be celebrated as great humanitarian to this day.
|Sally Ride, 2017. Graphite on paper 5x7".|
Sally Kristin Ride (1956 - 2012)
Sally applied to NASA to become an astronaut just before she completed her Phd in physics at Stanford University in 1978. She completed her training with NASA in 1979 and worked on the Space Shuttle Remote Manipulator System as a specialist. At last, on June 18th, 1983, Sally became the first woman to orbit the earth. At just thirty-two, she was also the youngest person in space at the time. Sally's second flight into space was aboard the Challenger Shuttle, before it's tragic accident in 1986. Sally was also an accomplished researcher, professor of physics and advocate for STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and math). She penned and co-authored with her partner, Tam O'Shaughnessy, a number of books about space travel and science for young readers. President Obama awarded Sally the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2013, shortly after her death in 2012. This is only one of the many awards and achievements honoring this stellar human being.
|Dolores Huerta, Huelga: "Strike", 2017. Graphite & oil on art board, c. 10x8".|
Dolores Clara (nee Fernandez) Huerta (1930 - )
Dolores Huerta has been a tireless worker for social justice since she became involved in the the struggle of California's farm workers in the 1950s. Out of high school, Dolores studied to become a school teacher, but as she explained, "I couldn't stand seeing kids come to class hungry and needing shoes." She was inspired to address other fundamental problems in her community. With Cesar Chavez she helped found the National Farm Workers Association, which became United Farm Workers in 1966. Her advocacy for farm worker's rights has expanded to all of the working poor, women and children. President Bill Clinton gave Dolores the Eleanor D. Roosevelt Human Rights Award in 1998. President Obama awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2012. Such honors keep mounting as Dolores continues her activism. In her own words, "We must use our lives to make the world a better place to live, not just acquire things. That is what we are put on Earth for."
(In addition to reading Kay Moore's brief biography of Dolores Huerta in Bold Women in California History, I highly recommend Peter Bratt's recent documentary Dolores, broadcast on PBS.)