Rosalind Franklin

“Science and everyday life cannot and should not be separated.”—Rosalind Franklin

Rosalind Franklin (1920 – 1958) was an English chemist and X-ray crystallographer whose work provided key insights into DNA structure.

Artists note: The day I painted Rosalind was a very important day to our family, the third anniversary of the accident that led to my husband’s death as well as the 9th month anniversary since the day he died. I wanted to paint someone in tribute to him. Whenever I’d see a photo of Rosalind Franklin, I thought she looked a lot like Vernon in the face…and they were both British. I love the thoughtful look on her face…even in photographs, she comes across (to me) as very intelligent. He was the same way.

 

Margaret Keane

“I didn’t want people to know that I was an artist. I was ashamed. I thought artists were weird, crazy people, you know. So I always kind of hid the fact that I was an artist.” —Margaret Keane

Margaret Keane (born 1927) is an American artist, known for painting  the kitschy “big-eyed waifs” that were popular in the 1960s. At one point, her sentimental work, mass-reproduced and sold cheaply in dime-stores, were among the most popular and recognized in the country. The problem was that her her husband, Walter Keane was taking all the credit. Walter was a great marketer, but he lied to the public so that her work would be passed off as his own. Caught in his deception, Margaret worked, at the height of (his) fame, up to 16 hours a day. This would become one of the greatest stories of art fraud in America, regardless of whether the work was critically acknowledged as serious art. When Margaret finally found the courage to leave Walter and branch off on her own, the word came out that she had been the artist behind these popular paintings all along. Walter denied the charges so a “paint-off” was called for in court (to which Walter found many excuses not to engage.) Eventually, it was established that Margaret had been the original painter all along. In her words, after being awarded 4 million in damages (including emotional distress): “I never saw a cent of it, but I won… It was a blessing just to sign my name.”

Artist’s note: I wouldn’t say that as an artist, Margaret was breaking new ground. But she was an overcomer and a survivor of an abusive relationship. In the end, truth won out, and she not only cleared her name, but she continued to make paintings, signed in her own name for the rest of her life. She’s 90 now. Bravo, Margaret!

I made her eyes just a little larger on purpose to pay tribute to Margaret’s style.

 

Aretha Franklin

 

“We all require and want respect, man or woman, black or white. It’s our basic human right.”—Aretha Franklin

Aretha Franklin (1942) American soul singer. Often called “the Queen of Soul,” she is widely considered one of the greatest musical performers of all time.

In this podcast, my friend Sarah discusses the admiration she’s had for Aretha from an early age—and the influence she still has on her life.

Maria Tallchief

“I think it is an innate quality that Indians have to dance. They dance when they are happy, they dance when they are sad. They dance when they get married, they dance when someone dies.”—Maria Tallchief

Maria Tallchief (1925-2013) was a Native American ballerina.  In a field dominated  by Russian dancers, Maria danced her way through racial and cultural barriers to become one of the country’s leading ballerinas from the 1940 to 1960s —and one of the only Native Americans She became America’s first prima ballerina at the New York City Ballet, and held that title for 13 years, touring the world and becoming an international star. When she was older, she turned to teaching, founding and becoming artistic director of the Chicago City Ballet. She was widely praised through her life for her precision and musicality, something that she always attributed to her Osage heritage.

Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit

‘The more we sweat in peace the less we bleed in war.”—Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit

Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit (1990-1990) was an Indian diplomat and  the first woman to serve as president of the UN General Assembly.

“Education is not merely a means for earning a living or an instrument for the acquisition of wealth. It is an initiation into life of spirit, a training of the human soul in the pursuit of truth and the practice of virtue.”—Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit

 

Clara Rockmore

“A lot of trial and error went into it, but the theremin saved my musical sanity by giving me an outlet in music.”  — Clara Rockmore

Clara Rockmore (1911-1998) was a Lithuanian musician who became the most famous and accomplished performer of the electronic instrument, the theremin. As a child, Clara had been a violin prodigy, admitted to the Imperial Conservatory of Saint Petersburg at the age of five. Though she was poised for a life as a professional violinist, tendinitis in her bow arm (caused by childhood malnutrition) forced her to abandon the instrument. After her Jewish family fled Russia to live in America, Clara met another immigrant, Léon Theremin, who had invented the self-named theremin. With her refined violin skills, she became the most prominent theremin player, performing widely, bringing attention to the strange instrument, and helping Leon improve his invention. While the theremin is mostly known for spooky sounds used in vintage science fiction movies, under Clara’s control, it sounded like a classical stringed instrument or even a singing voice.

Septima Poinsette Clark

“I believe unconditionally in the ability of people to respond when they are told the truth. We need to be taught to study rather than believe, to inquire rather than to affirm.” —Septima Poinsette Clark

Septima Poinsette Clark (1893-1987) was an African-American teacher and civil rights activist who set up citizenship schools for disenfranchised African Americans in the 1950s and 60s. Here, they were taught to read and write so they could pass the literacy tests required by southern states to register to vote.  The citizenship schools began to spread through the south, and were adopted by Martin Luther King Jr’s  Southern Christian Leadership Conference in 1961. As a result, many began to take control of their lives and discover their full rights as citizens. Septima’s 40 years of teaching experience and her own struggles and triumphs of finding work as a black teacher in the south equipped her to design an education program that changed the course of history…and empowered many African Americans to take control of their lives and discover their full rights as citizens.  She became known as the “Queen mother” or “Grandmother” of the Civil Rights Movement in the United States.

Anni Albers

“Being creative is not so much the desire to do something as the listening to that which wants to be done: the dictation of the materials.”

—Anni Albers

Anni Albers (1899 – 1994) was a German textile artist and printmaker. She is perhaps the best known textile artist of the 20th century. Rebelling against her comfortable upbringing by choosing to become an artist, she attended the modernist Bauhaus school, where students lived with challenging and impoverished conditions. For a woman, there there were very few options for further study after the foundation level so she entered the woman’s weaving workshop, but she quickly embraced the process and materials of an art form that she would come to revolutionize.  While at the Bauhaus, she met her husband, Josef Albers, who would become a master instructor at the school as well as one of the foremost artist/educators in the world. Anni eventually became the head of the Bauhaus weaving workshop herself.

When the Nazi party pressured the school to close (which it did a year later) the couple were invited to move to America and teach at Black Mountain College in North Carolina. Though the Albers had never lived there, they embraced their new chapter of life, sharing their understanding of modernism and art to a new generation of American students. Over the years, they continued to make their own art and collect others’, rarely making work together but always encouraging each other’s creativity with deep understanding.

In 1949, Anni Albers became the first designer to have a one-person exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. Albers’s design exhibition at MoMA began in the fall and then toured the US from 1951 until 1953, establishing her as one of the most important designers of the day. Through her long life, she continued in her passion for design as she wrote books and moved into the field of printmaking. She is credited for establishing Design History as a legitimate area of academic study.

Artist’s Note:  Did you know that today is National Widow’s Day? Neither did I, till a friend let me know. Since I’m a widow myself, I thought I’d look up “widows in the art world” for my painting inspiration. Anni’s name came up. Josef (who was 11 years older than his wife) died in 1976, leaving Anni as a widow for 18 years. The two of them were famously close colleagues, having met in art school when they were young, enjoying a deep intellectual understanding with each other. I didn’t meet my own husband till I was 35 and he was 40, but we had both been educated in our own art colleges, and were still making when we met…and then, of course, after. I recognize the closeness of having two like-minded individuals making a life together. Especially, I think, as artists, its a rare thing. And yet, they weren’t making things together. They each had their own area of interest. My parents are like that too. My dad is a painter and my mom is a printmaker…and I admire the together/apartness of choosing to live that way as a couple. Like Josef, who developed two important alphabets through the Bauhaus, Vernon was a type designer too. I miss him. That’s why I chose to paint this picture from a photograph of Anni and Josef together. I imagine they were intrinsically entwined.

Georgia OKeeffe

Temple Grandin

Dr. Temple Grandin, PhD, (born  1947) is an autistic woman who has become one of the top scientists in the humane livestock handling industry and an outspoken advocate of other humans on the spectrum. Temple grew up in a time when very little was known about autism, but due to her mother’s insistence that she receive a good education regardless of her diagnosed “brain damage,” and with the help of understanding mentors, she went on to receive degrees in psychology and animal science. Temple compares her thinking process and memory to ‘movies’ in that can be replayed in her head at will, allowing her to notice small details that would otherwise be overlooked. This has helped her empathetic work with animals as she has advocated for more humane treatment of livestock. She understands the anxiety of being overstimulated by her surroundings, and even invented a ‘hug machine’ to be used with autistic children in need of calming as well as animals in stressful situations. Temple has become one of the most well-known and respected speakers on autism awareness as well as animal welfare, and she is still going strong!

“Autism is an important part of who I am, and I wouldn’t want to change it, because I LIKE the way I think.” —Temple Grandin