Katherine Johnson

“I like to learn. That’s an art and a science.” —Katherine Johnson

Katherine Johnson (born 1918), mathematician and computer scientist, was of NASA’s human ‘computers,’ who performed the complex calculations that enabled spacecraft to orbit Earth and to land on the moon. Check out the excellent movie Hidden Figures to learn more about Katherine (and her friends.)

Yuri Kochiyama

“Don’t become too narrow. Live fully. Meet all kinds of people. You’ll learn something from everyone.”—Yuri Kochiyama

Yuri Kochiyama (1921-2014) was a Japanese American who was put into an interment camp with her family after the Bombing of Pearl Harbor. Her experience greatly influenced a life of advocacy for many civil rights causes including the anti war movement, Black equality, reparations for Japanese-American internees, and political prisoners.  She was a passionate advocate for peace into her old age.

 

Barbara Hepworth

 

“A woman artist is not deprived by cooking and having children –one is in fact nourished by this rich life, provided one always does some work each day; even a single half hour, so that images grow in one’s mind.”

—Barbara Hepworth

Dame Jocelyn Barbara Hepworth ( 1903 – 1975) was an English sculptor, one of the few female sculptors of her era. She was also revolutionary in her style as she carved massive Modernist sculptures by hand. She was also the mother of four….three of them, triplets. In her lifetime, she did achieve some international success, but she was often thought of as provincial because she was also a mother and lacked the freedom of her contemporaries. Still, the focus of her life and her attention to her children in each season caused her work to be extra special, which aficionados especially appreciate now.

Artist’s note: I was drawn to paint Barbara Hepworth after receiving an email from my husband’s first girlfriend (a friend of mine too) in which she remembered visiting the Barbara Hepworth house in St. Ives, Cornwall, when they were art students. I remembered visiting it too with him (over 20 years later) when we visited St. Ives with my traveling parents. I love when I paint a person, and learn about about her, and hers is just the message I need to hear. Granted, this is often the case when I paint artists and writers…but her story came to me in a time when I was really struggling with the idea of trying to be an artist and support my family as a single mother. I was trapped in the story that I couldn’t do it all. So finding out that this woman whom I already admired (I’ve touched her work in its natural habitat!) also had TRIPLETS (along with a first child from another marriage) was a kiss of life to a hurting soul.  Granted, she was a genius, but I am inspired. Yes, please, Ms. Hepworth, I’d love you to be my mentor! <3

“I found one had to do some work every day, even at midnight, because either you’re professional or you’re not.”—Barbara Hepworth

Joan Didion

“I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see and what it means. What I want and what I fear.”
― Joan Didion

Joan Didion (born 1934) is an American author best known for her novels and her literary journalism. She collaborated on several screenplays (including “A Star is Born”) with her husband, John Gregory Dunne. When he died of a heart attack after forty years of marriage,  she wrote a book about her grief, which also became a play.  Joan is a fashion icon as well as a literary icon: at the age of 80, she became of the “Face of Céline” for the French fashion label’s advertising campaign.

Emily Dickinson

“The soul should always stand ajar, ready to welcome the ecstatic experience.” —Emily Dickinson
Emily Dickinson (1830-1886) was an American poet.  Throughout her life, she seldom left her home and visitors were few. The people with whom she did come in contact, however, had an enormous impact on her poetry.  Emily Dickinson published only eight poems during her lifetime.  Mostly published after her death, her almost- 2000 profound thoughts on life and death, nature, love, and art make her one of the most important poets of the English language to this day.

“Hope” is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all –

And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard –
And sore must be the storm –
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm –

I’ve heard it in the chillest land –
And on the strangest Sea –
Yet – never – in Extremity,
It asked a crumb – of me.

Florence Nightengale

 

“Nursing is an art: and if it is to be made an art, it requires an exclusive devotion as hard a preparation, as any painter’s or sculptor’s work.
—Florence Nightingale

Florence Nightingale  (1820 –  1910) was an English nurse and social reformer who greatly affected 19th-and 20th -century policies around proper nursing care.  During the Crimean War, she was put in charge of nursing allied and British soldiers in Turkey. As she walked around the wards at night, tending to the wounded, she became known as the “Lady with the Lamp.” Her efforts to formalize nursing education led her to establish the first scientifically based nursing school in 1860. She also helped set up training for midwives and nurses in workhouse infirmaries. Florence Nightengale is revered as the founder of modern nursing.

Zora Neale Hurston

 

“Sometimes, I feel discriminated against, but it does not make me angry. It merely astonishes me. How can any deny themselves the pleasure of my company? It’s beyond me. “—Zora Neale Hurston

 

Zora Neale Hurston (1891–1960) was an African American anthropologist, author, and Civil Rights activist. She wrote many plays and books about the African American experience, becoming one of the most influential figures of the Harlem Renaissance, a cultural, social, and artistic explosion that took place in Harlem, New York, spanning the 1920s. “Their Eyes Were Watching God” is Zora’s most famous book. Though it was published in 1937, it is still widely read to this day and has come to be regarded as a very important work in both African-American literature and women’s literature.

 

Madeleine L’Engle

 

“You have to write the book that wants to be written. And if the book will be too difficult for grown-ups, then you write it for children.”—Madeleine L’Engle

Madeleine L’Engle (1918-2007) was an American author and poet best known for her young adult science-fiction, particularly the beloved book, A Wrinkle in Time and its sequels. She wrote over 60 books (many also for adults) that often reflected her faith and her strong interest in science. As an only child, Madeleine was raised by artistic parents in New York City, with plenty of freedom to use her imagination. Instead of her school work, she found that she would much rather be writing stories. In fact, she wrote her first book at age 5. She later joined the theatre, married an actor, moved to the countryside, and raised her children, running a general store, while always keeping up her lifelong discipline of writing and journaling. When she wrote A Wrinkle in Time, which went on to win the prestigious Newbery Medal, almost didn’t get published. It was rejected by 27 publishing agencies, and in her mid-forties, Madeleine was ready to retire. We are so glad she kept writing.

To give an idea of her wonderful mind, here are a selection of wonderful quotes from Madeleine L’Engle:

“The great thing about getting older is that you don’t lose all the other ages you’ve been.”

“A book, too, can be a star, a living fire to lighten the darkness, leading out into the expanding universe.”

“Our truest response to the irrationality of the world is to paint or sing or write, for only in such response do we find truth.”

“The unending paradox is that we do learn through pain.”

“Inspiration usually comes during work rather than before it.”

“When we lose our myths we lose our place in the universe.”

“But unless we are creators we are not fully alive. What do I mean by creators? Not only artists, whose acts of creation are the obvious ones of working with paint of clay or words. Creativity is a way of living life, no matter our vocation or how we earn our living. Creativity is not limited to the arts, or having some kind of important career.”

“It’s a good thing to have all the props pulled out from under us occasionally. It gives us some sense of what is rock under our feet, and what is sand.”

“Somethings have to be believed to be seen.”

 

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.