Tuesday, November 2, 2010

FAT Tuesday Artist Spotlight #10

I created FAT Tuesday to showcase inspiring artists and to provide a forum for Artists to share their work with one another--this includes all types of arts, photography and crafts, including writing and poetry.  If you would like to take part in FAT Tuesday, these are the guidelines:

* Upload what you want to share onto your blog.
*  Don't forget to leave a link to your art on Linky tools.
*  Be sure to visit other artists who have left their link.
* Leave a comment when you visit each artist's page.
(We artists need to encourage each other!)
* Be sure to leave a link to FAT Tuesday on your blog page.
 (You can copy the button at the bottom of the page if you'd like.) 

Today I am going to focus upon one artist in particular--Martina Gangle Curl, one of Oregon's great artists.  Next week, I will be featuring five of my favorite artists as usual.

With a heart for Mothers, their families and her community, Martina Gangle painted her world as she saw it during the Great Depression.  She once wrote of her friendship with Eleanor Roosevelt and is responsible for a variety of commissioned artwork throughout the State of Oregon.  The painting above is part of a mural she and a fellow artist Arthur Runquist created for Rose City Park Elementary School in Portland.  It was called The Columbia River Pioneer Migration – The Homesteaders

Great Aunt Martina was a delight.  I can still hear her laughter and the sound of her voice in my mind.  It was obvious she deeply loved her family.  I remember her worn yet beautiful face, the way her eyes would twinkle when she smiled beneath the ever-present scarf she wore over her hair.   She was always kind to me and gently encouraged me to draw.  Once at a family reunion I was sketching a rough picture of something that had caught my fancy.  I remember feeling a hand on my hair, looking up to see Aunt Martina smiling down at me, nodding her approval.

I also remember a stern scolding one summer afternoon.  That year the family reunion was at Grandma Jenny's place in Prineville.  A water fight on a hot day, with my siblings and cousins got out of hand and Aunt Martina was liberally sprayed with an ample shower of cold water.  Fortunately she laughed about the incident later, when I apologized.
Above you see Aunt Martina in 1975, at a "sit in" protesting Portland General Electric.  This is the wonderful face I remember.  She had a tender and truly noble heart.  She was passionate about the equality of all peoples and caring for the poor and disadvantaged.  When she was in her early 80's she was one of those arrested for picketing the White House in Washington DC!  I remember seeing her face on television.  Though we did not necessarily agree on some things, I admired her determination to stand for what she believed.  What an amazing woman!

Aunt Martina was one of 200 artists employed by Federal Arts Project, the New Deal’s ambitious effort to support visual artists, writers, and dramatists under the auspices of the massive Works Progress Administration (WPA).  These artists provided murals, paintings, watercolors, and wood carvings for Timberline Lodge on Mount Hood.
Though I knew she was one of the artists who worked at Timberline Lodge during The Great Depression, it was only a few years ago I discovered how well known she was.  Her artwork hangs in the Oregon Art Museum and she is considered to be one of Oregon's most important historical artists.

Along with her many accomplishments, she painted several murals with Arthur Runquist, including one of my favorites which can be seen at Pendleton High School. It is a work in two panels, one celebrating the culture of the Umatilla Indians and the other a cattle roundup honoring the hard toil of cowboys.  It is an incredibly beautiful piece of art.

Life was not easy for Aunt Martina.  She was one of seven children who lived in desperate circumstances.  Their father had gone to find gold during the Alaskan gold rush and was never seen again.  Life was incredibly hard.  Their mother provided food for the family working as a domestic – washing clothes, sewing, or doing farm chores. 

When Aunt Martina was in her mid-20's, she attended the Museum Art School in Portland.  Unlike most artists of the time, her etchings, lino cuts, and lithographs of the mid-thirties often portrayed women and children fruit harvesters and other working people.

Aunt Martina once speculated how different things would have been if she had gone directly from high school to attend art school. “I would have had seven, or eight years of ignorance of what was happening in the country,” she reflected. “I would no doubt have painted flowers and landscapes instead of poor families and people running from violence, homeless people sleeping on benches, etc.” These powerful images from her own life experiences filled her thoughts and deeply influenced her artwork.  Her mentors, she once mused, “didn’t realize what life had already done to my thinking.”

She and fellow artist Arthur Runquist, were blacklisted during the Cold War because of their political views.  She wrote. “Thugs beat Arthur up. They injured his hand so badly doctors thought they would have to amputate. Luckily, his hand was saved." He and Martina were working on the Pendleton murals at the time.

There is so much more I could write about Aunt Martina--so many stories.  Suffice it to say, not only was she an amazing artist--she adored her brother and sisters, her nieces and nephews and her great nieces and nephews.  I am  honored to have known Aunt Martina.  I treasure my memories of her and I am proud of the incredible artistic legacy she left for all of us to ponder and enjoy. 

To read more about Aunt Martina's fascinating life visit the Oregon Cultural Heritage Commission.


Grannie Annie said...

What a facinating and wonderful story...I love personal histories they are so interesting...her art is wonderful.
What's the deal with your blog Sissy? I waited for FAT Tuesday all day yesterday and this morning...I was getting worried I thought you might be sick again or something. This post just appeared a few minutes ago but it was posted yesterday??? Whats the deal...love you.

P.S. Mom's coming along really good at the rehab center...thanks for your prayers.

Angela said...

What a wonderful story Beth, and how great to honor the artwork of this woman. I loved reading it, thanks!

Megan Coyle said...

What a great story - and thank you for sharing more beautiful art!