Sophie Scholl

“The real damage is done by those millions who want to ‘survive.’ The honest men who just want to be left in peace. Those who don’t want their little lives disturbed by anything bigger than themselves. Those with no sides and no causes. Those who won’t take measure of their own strength, for fear of antagonizing their own weakness. Those who don’t like to make waves—or enemies. Those for whom freedom, honour, truth, and principles are only literature. Those who live small, mate small, die small. It’s the reductionist approach to life: if you keep it small, you’ll keep it under control. If you don’t make any noise, the bogeyman won’t find you. But it’s all an illusion, because they die too, those people who roll up their spirits into tiny little balls so as to be safe. Safe?! From what? Life is always on the edge of death; narrow streets lead to the same place as wide avenues, and a little candle burns itself out just like a flaming torch does. I choose my own way to burn.”
― Sophie Scholl

Sophie Scholl (1921 – 1943) was a German student and anti-Nazi political activist, active within the White Rose non-violent resistance group in Nazi Germany. She was convicted of high treason after having been found distributing anti-war leaflets at the University of Munich with her brother Hans. As a result, they were both executed by guillotine. Following her death, a copy of the sixth leaflet was smuggled out of Germany through and used by the Allied Forces. In mid-1943, they dropped over Germany millions of propaganda copies of the tract, now retitled The Manifesto of the Students of Munich.

“I know that life is a doorway to eternity, and yet my heart so often gets lost in petty anxieties. It forgets the great way home that lies before it.”

– Sophie Scholl

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

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.

 

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.

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.