Tuesday, August 5, 2008

I am beginning to believe I am a political landscape painter. I have always known the value of art as a tool for transformation both personal and political. What I have had to learn through being attentive to my own curiosities and artistic focus, is that I choose often to use land as my method of recording memories and stories in my paintings and murals.

The concept of the Land's memory is not new for me. I can first remember my thoughts that the land could remember all that had occurred in a particular place when I was a small child. I walked to elementary school across hot fields of weed and grasses in the burning Southern California sun through agricultural fields. A plant grew in the fields that we called
"clocks" and as children we would snatch a tiny stem and hold it to the light, each child watching the slim weed with a seed at its end, release small hair like outgrows to turn the seed into the earth and plant it. The stem began turning, as soon as it was separated from the pod on which it grew. Sometimes the wind would snatch the seed from our tiny fingers and it would become airborne planting itself despite our interventions.

I still don't know the official term for this weed, so common in the San Fernando Valley were I grew up. My home was called Pacoima, named by the original people, and in open fields the clocks still grow there, despite the fact that Pacoima gained a reputation as a dangerous barrio. Long ago, we stood in a circle each with our tiny seed stem held high and raced each other to see whose stem could turn the most times. As we watched the amazing plant literally twist in our fingers, it was like the turning of a hand on a clock.

I knew then, that there was an intelligence to living and growing things and to the earth that nurtured them. I would pass along trails and the temperature would change from hot to cold and sometimes there were stories associated with the temperatures of different places. This slight incline in the path was cold. It harbored a dark secret because someone once found human bones there. We would shout the story to each other. which never ceased to scare us, even when told repeatedly. The story was recalled by our passing through the cool spot.

I thought the land was, nevertheless, recording all that had occurred there in the field. I needed only to listen to the land to hear the story. It could have been the fact that my grandmother was an indigenous woman who asked a plant's permission to transplant it. Or when taking a clippiing from a branch of plant, she spoke kindly to the plant and asked first if it did not mind, she would coach a new plant from it. Everything she touched grew in coffee cans on our porch, before they were replanted into our lush garden. This did not seem unusual to me. It was normal.

Today I am walking on the opposite shores from where I come from along this narrow strip of land called the "cape". It is where the Pilgrims landed in the Mayflower on Nov 21st 1620 before Plymouth Rock. 286 years later history was corrected to memorialize the Pilgrims first home in Provincetown by the building of a towering monument of hand hewn granite.
"The people of Provincetown were overcome with joy that at last their town would be recognized as the first home the Pilgrims" says the tourist guidebook.

I cannot help but wonder why they were thrilled given the profound consequences to the indigenous people of that landing.

I am beginning a months stay here and I am anxious to feel this land and its memories which had such profound consequence to millions. The Cape is rich with memory. Despite the joyful vacation aire of Provincetown in August, I find myself worrying as I walk trails here, that children in the inner cities of the U.S. walk on concrete everyday never placing their feet on the soil enough to learn to listen to the land. I worry that the hands of the clock are turning.

Monday, August 4, 2008

My work: The Cesar Chavez Monument in San Jose Ca.

What I am working on while I am here is an important part of the memory of the land in California. It is a monument to Cesar Chavez the founder of the United Farm Workers. The monument will contain six tile murals that commemorate Chavez not as a heroic man in the way fallen soldiers are commemorated all over the U.S., as bronze statues in parks but instead through a memorial to his beliefs. I have designed a Mayan Corbelled arch combined with mission colonial niches as the triumphant arch in the Cesar Chavez plaza with floor patterns that commemorate his marches and fasts which were critical to his activism in behalf of the working conditions of campesino agricultural workers.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Well, a long time since the Political Landscape Painter has posted to her blog but I am back.
I will be posting again but not from paradise but from Los Angeles. Much is happening here of note and developments are daily. My focus is not the luxury of work on a single monument but the building problems of four separate but connected public artworks. It will be interspersed with personal observations on the landscape of Los Angeles arts particularly murals which are under great jeopardy at the moment.

Monday, August 27, 2007

A Thanks to Those who made my time away possible

Today was a day spent preparing to leave. It is amazing how my luggage has expanded. The paintings must be shipped back now and their are more books, drawings, and paints and I am not sure what else has filled the additional box. I spent the day cleaning, doing laundry, cleaning out the refrigerator. Unfortunately, my work stopped before I completed what was scheduled.

For those of us artists and workers in the nonprofit realm, (I am a founder of a 31 year old organization for social change through the arts), time off is only a promise of something that will come and often doesn't.

So I must stop and say this: I am so grateful to those on the other side of the country who made this stay possible for me, as well as the Gaea Foundation who provided me my Sea Change home away from home.

At SPARC the most important work of preparation for our contracts with the State of California for the California Cultural and Historical Endowment's grant to restore the Great Wall of Los Angeles (a life long work of mine) continued to be ruthlessly demanding in my absence. I have a particular debt of gratitude to Debra Padilla our Executive Director who did not have a vacation, but instead tended every detail of the needed agreements to fulfill our contracts to restore the half mile long work on the little told story of the alternate history of California which includes contribution by its ethnic and immigrant groups. She carried this out along with all the other daily demands of a very busy art center. CLICK TO SEE GREAT WALL

Farhad my right hand in the UCLA/SPARC Digital Mural Lab responded to all the demands of our on-going public art projects in progress in my absence, such as last minute requests for additional technical and architectual drawings before taking his shortened vacation time. Carlos our lab assistant and student, was able to join his family in El Salvador for vacation after working intently with the SPARC/OTIS teenage youth in our O"team digital lab at SPARC this summer.

We will all convene next week to celebrate our interns and staff including Pilar our achivist and Betty our Project Assistant who have been "womaning" our requests from the public and visitors this summer. Thank you for keeping the SPARC in SPARC lit while I was away and assisting Debra.
I will join you all to continue our important work refreshed and prepared and thank you for your support to SPARC.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Residency coming to a close

Nearly a month has passed since I arrived in Provincetown at the lovely Sea Change Cottage. I am amazed how fast the time went. My Canadian friends left yesterday and a deafening silence decended where there was engaged conversations and happy chatter. We left each other with promises of a real wilderness trip next summer kayaking in the Queen Charlotte's, the ancestral land of the Haidas. This would fulfill A lifetime dream of mine to see where the totems once stood. Tony is familiar with the northern territories as his work with Native bands to preserve their land and mineral rights takes him north regularly.
Much planning was achieved on the World Wall addition. Tony and Tania will convene a group of Canadian advisers including First Nation people to determine the exact content of the Canadian addition to the mural wall. I will join them for those sessions in the north. After the conceptualization group has met, a small team of Canadian artists will work with the concepts to produce the final images for the wall. We at SPARC (the Social and Public Art Center) will ship the giant canvas and the paints to the site for painting either in Vancouver or Mayne Island for the months of production it will take to complete the mural. It will premiere with the additional nine panels from, Israel and Palestine, Russia, Finland, Mexico and the United States, in Vancouver in approximately a year. My collaborators and I spoke of many issues and had the luxury of sustained talks over breakfast, during walks and on the beach at sunset. How wonderful and creative the time was!

On my own once again, I am working against time to finish what I set out to do here. The time here has had many affects but one important one is that I have found that my clenching teeth have subsided and once again I can hear my self think outside of Los Angeles demands.
My last three days will yield the completion of Dolores Huertas portrait and hopefully the second farmworkers image. The second image commemorates the abolishment of the dreaded "short Hoe". No " hoe" is not a "rap song" reference but a tool used to work the land that broke the backs of its users, the campesinos in the fields of California. It will turn to gold in my painting as it symbolizes the money it made for agri-business but conversely it also represents the sweet victory of it abolishment by the United Farmworkers activism. I will make not further entries to this blog as my residency will have ended and this was an exercise in recording my process. So when I return to my work in Los Angeles perhaps there will be a new blog on the Robert F. Kennedy production in the Ambassador Hotel which is becoming the new RFK learning Center in Los Angeles. I will be painting in the ballroom where he delivered his last speech minutes before he was killed. So thanks for looking in on my residency and for your emails.

Judy Baca


Thursday, August 23, 2007

Canadian Contribution to the World Wall Advancing at Sea Change !

Global Warming and Canada's North

CLICK HERE TO READ the remarks of Inuit activist Sheila Watt-Cloutier who has been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize and speaks eloquently of the Inuit of Canada's life and the catastrophic changes brought about by global warming in the artic.

The Canadian Environment Awards Citation of Lifetime Achievement
Remarks by Sheila Watt-Cloutier
Vancouver, BC

June 5, 2006

From Tania's Sketch Pad a Diagram of ideas for Inclusion in her 10ftx30ft mural

click on image to enlarge
Tania Godoroja at Sea Change:

To be at Sea Change is a gift that is immeasurable. I find myself on the

east coast instead of the west. This is a landscape with which I am unfamiliar—a perfect place to contemplate the uniqueness of Canada. Being here has made me shift my vision. Here, with every hour, the light changes, the temperature fluctuates. So, too, it is with the passing
parade of life in Provincetown. We witness incongruencies. We see drag queens and a few pilgrims. We see beauty that takes our breath away and cannot be captured by our digital cameras. All of these experiences stimulate us and provoke discussions long into the night.

I have had the luxury these past few days of long bouts of uninterrupted creative thinking, of working my way through a thousand ideas for the Canadian World Wall project, in the confines of the Sea Change cottage nestled at the tranquil west end in Provincetown. With the help of Judy and Tony, the focus of the project has been honed and clarified, and our
approach to the collaboration refined.

In thinking about Cape Cod’s four hundred years of recorded history, I have reflected upon my task of giving Canada’s land a voice. By comparison the European history of my west coast home is much shorter and scant on stories. First Nations peoples have maintained the history of this land for a much longer time, and their stories may provide insights
that can help us depict a future without fear.

Today while New England Quakers show the Cost of War in Martha's Vineyard, Bush national broadcast says:

President Bush warned that if Americans succumbed to “the allure of retreat,” they will witness death and suffering of the sort not seen since the Vietnam War.

New England Quakers show the Cost of War in Martha's Vineyard

We arrive in Martha's Vineyard as siteseers in time to see the New England chapter of the Quakers removing an installation of approx. 2700 military boots, each with the name of a soldier killed in Iraq. Their posters tell of the 720million dollars per day that is the cost of war along with the death toll of American soldiers exemplified in the empty boots. The death toll of Iraqui's is still an ellusive number, but estimates are in the 100's of thousands. We are grateful to see the work done by the Quakers as it restores our hope in early Americans. What could 720million dollars a day do for health care, education, the arts? Stopping at a coffee shop we hear President Bush on the television delivering another of his "stay the course" speeches. See the link to his speech above.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

A subdued John Kerry answers questions he is tired of anwering. What are you doing now Senator? He replies "well we (the democrats) are very busy with new legislation. I am particularly interested in Historic preservation issues".

Monday, August 20, 2007

Today was the 100 year commemoration of the towering Pilgram's monument in Provincetown. A granite tower which is the tallest in America of similar substance, was built in 1907 by Theodore Roosevelt's administration and he himself dedicated it then, to acknowledge the Pilgram's first landing here in Provincetown. Today it was rededicated with musket blasts and dour black cloaked Masons and Shriners in parade. Almost no women or pilgrims were present to the strange display of patriotic fanfare. Startling in their absence, were the original people, the Native Americans.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Massachusetts Rocks

Tony snaps a picture of Judy at Race Point

The light is different here than the west coast at sunset. A mauve pink glow begins on the horizon. We watch the light change and large black sea lions swim by capturing everyones interest. They come in groups of three or four swimming together definitely with intent to reach a destination. It is so wonderful to have my friends with me to share the moment.
Originally uploaded by tonypearse

We spend the day at the Beach

Tania will paint the addition to the World Wall: a Vision of the Future without Fear from Canada. We are engaged in "creative loafing" and our conversations range from the World Wall and my impending biography to the direction she will take with the mural addition. CLICK HERE TO SEE WORLD WALL LINK.

Race Point is a place where many many ships were lost because of the
disceptive sand bars which trapped ships. The Rescue station built in the
19th cent. is behind us.

Tania is reading about Canada's history of "extraction" of the land's resources. This course cannot be pursued infinitely and requires rethinking. How will this happen? What are the alternatives? What are the consequences of inaction?

Our day ends too
quickly but we stay
to watch the light

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

A view near Sea Change Cottage

After Painting all night I needed to get out of the basement and into the air. On my bike I discovered this equisite view just down the street. How beautiful this land is in its' natural state. There are those who would call this "un-developed land " because it is, as it always was. It is a strange concept, isn't ? The land in its natural state is "undeveloped land" as if it is imperfect and waiting for man to intervene.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Painting Dolores Huerta Portrait: Evolving

The image of Dolores Huerta for the Cesar Chavez Monument
is evolving. A good painting day today as the heat has subsided and the basement is not quite as humid and intolerable. I am beginning to like it down here. It feels safe and secluded.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

A Local Mural

This is what a Provincetown mural looks like. Across the street from this mural literally, I am painting about the decendents of the native peoples who today move back and forth across the border to put food on the tables of America still. Back at home, Ice raids conducted by Homeland Security are happening all over Los Angeles to deport undocumented workers who fuel our economy from their workplaces. The New York Times announced the new Homeland Policy to tighten up on agricultural workers despite the failure of the immigration bill. Agricultural workers will be taken out of the fields. Often in the raids, the real consequences are that mothers and fathers are deported and untended children are left at home.
A moment after I took this photo, the men who were posturing in front of the pilgrims posed next to a pilgrim grabbing his crotch. Somehow it seemed appropriate.
The authorities said that the deporting of a woman who had sought refuge in churches did not signal a crackdown on religious groups that help illegal immigrants.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

My Tiny Basement studio

I have set up the paintings I must complete here in the tiny little basement. I am hoping that it will work for 3x5 pieces I am painting for the Cesar Chavez Monument now in the building stages at San Jose State University in California. I am working on a portrait of the UFW leader Dolores Huerta who will be one of the pillars of the Chavez Mayan Corbelled Arch I described in a previous entry. She is beautiful but not weak. She must be feminine but not in the traditional notion of emaciated models with vacuous looks. She has the power of an earth mother. When Dolores would nogotiate contracts for the United Farmworkers, the growers would say, "do anything but, don't send Dolores". I want all that in the portrait. These images once painted will become digital tiles for installation on the front and back of the arch. Chavez not a showman or arrogant will be on the interior and spiritually portrayed. Those images are evolving on the table.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Global Warming in Provincetown

The weather shifted today and the sun was no where to be found. Still it was stifling hot with humidity. The humidity is too much for a Westcoast girl like me and a summer storm an oddity. I invoked the earth to bring rain and relieve the heavy sky.
My work was the same ladened with the heaviness of small tasks, unpacking, buying a few needed supplies, finding a cup of strong coffee all interrupting me from getting to the work. I could not reach the paintings waiting in the dark basement which it is still unclear that I can manage to paint in. I still am on California's time. Perhaps manana will be a better day.