ERITREA: Reshaping the Land
1996, acrylic, 60"x54",
© Betty LaDuke

An Artist's Journey from Oregon to Timbuktu
by Betty LaDuke © 1998

From the Earth, Around the Earth

From New York Subways to a Mississippi Riverboat
Pickled Herring, Pickled Pig Knuckles

b. Mexico, from Mestizo to Indigenista Reality
Torillas and Pulque

a. Survival Strategies
Venison and Wild Rice

b. From Civil Rights to Feminine Mythical Landscapes
Bagels and Pears

Spiritual and Aesthetic Diversity
Curry, Rice, Breadfruit, and Frijoles

b. Africa, Many Peoples, Many Cultures, Much Hope
Pounded Yam and Injera

a. Family and Extended Family
Maple Syrup and Honey

From the Earth, Around the Earth

I have never thought of myself as a "Western" artist, specifically Oregon, U.S.A., but I do qualify by more than three decades of residency, more than half my life. However, friends still remind me, "You talk Bronx." Ashland, Oregon is home. Home is: a house, a studio, a family, a place where children are born and grandchildren come to visit. Leaving home on a daily basis to teach at Southern Oregon University, returning home to my studio to paint. Leaving home annually for several weeks (since 1972) for Latin America, Asia, and Africa, to meet and learn about other women's lives and art, then returning home to my studio to portray their rites of passage in my paintings and etchings. A brief interaction made visible. Urban women and artists of Santiago, Chile; Kingston, Jamaica; and the villages of San Juanico, Mexico; Rumah Rawing, Borneo; Jitwapur, India; and Beleze, Eritrea are my heroines. They are our contemporary goddesses. Survivors of malnutrition, political oppression, even massacres, they block the movement of armed military personnel with sticks, stones, and their bodies to protect children. I have seen their faces, painted them and written stories about them in the following books:Compašeras, Women, Art, and Social Change in Latin America; Africa Through the Eyes of Women Artists; Women Artists, Multicultural Visions; and Africa, Women's Art, Women's Lives (see Gallery I).

© Betty LaDuke

The heroic stories of women, young and old, have also been retold on Oregon radio and television, decade after decade, beginning in the 1960s with the water hosing and spitting on children, struggling for their civil rights and school integration in Birmingham, Alabama. These scenes have also inspired my paintings Play Free and End of the Whitey Myth, filled with anger and rage, mine and theirs.

Traveling has been an integral component of my life and art. Travel is always a challenge. The challenge continues when I return home to my Oregon studio and begin the process of recreating my diverse cultural experiences into an art form that reaches beyond the moment, for a universal context, as I explore what it is to be human in this world today.

Observing people's direct dependence on the food they produce from the earth and around the earth, and sketching the plowing of land in India with oxen in preparation for planting rice, or chopping weeds around millet seedlings in Cameroon, Africa, eating from palm leaf plates or calabash bowls have also been important formative experiences. Therefore I have included food as an eclectic cultural guide in the retelling of the intersection of my life and art around the following themes:

Identity - determined at birth and then by the choices we make;

Community - the relationships we establish with people and places;

Spirituality - the culturally diverse ways we honor life; and

Locality - a state of mind that connects us with family and extended family.

I. Identity
a. From New York Subways to a Mississippi Riverboat






All text and images © Betty LaDuke.
Watermark VW2D Technology © Purdue University.