Murals unite us, artist says
November 15, 2010 —
Land, tradition and memory are three aspects artist Judy Baca has used to bring people of all ethnicities and social classes together.
On Nov. 11, Baca, the Dow Visiting Artist, gave a presentation of her artwork and how she uses it to better the lives of oppressed people.
Baca has been a professor of art at the University of California for almost tree decades. She is also well-known for creating the Social and Public Art Resource Center located in her hometown of Los Angeles.
“I paint landscapes that tell the stories of the people,” she said. “I’ve always known the value of art as a tool for transformation both personal and political.”
In 1976, Baca, with help from minorities and displaced youth, began working on a mural called the Great Wall of Los Angeles. It is the world’s longest mural, spans almost 2,700 feet and depicts a multicultural California from pre-history to the 1950s. Baca currently has plans with her students to add new segments to the Great Wall.
“We’re working on the ‘60s, ‘70s, ‘80s, and ‘90s, and these are virtually placed on the wall, so we are now able to on a computer place the designs virtually on the wall, walk through it, fly through it, be able to see them as completed images in scale before they’re complete,” she said.
Baca also created a mural in memory of Robert Kennedy Jr. The mural was on display on the site of the Ambassador Hotel, where he was killed in 1968. “Everywhere Bobby Kennedy went, he was greeted by thousands of people and there was a very common sight for him to be standing on the back of the car with hands reaching toward him,” she said.
This was the inspiration for Baca while creating the mural and the hands reaching for Kennedy. The hands were taken from real photos and were digitally placed into the mural.
Baca also created another mural in memorial of Kennedy, with the landscape of California shown in the background of a lotus flower. Each petal of the flower represents an issue Kennedy faced.
“It was into this that we placed the issues that Kennedy said were the most important issues he would have to address in our time, and he was talking to people in the 1960s,” Baca said. “These, of course, are the same issues we face today: war, health care, poverty, intolerance, education and the environment.”
Sarah Rohn, a graphic design senior, said that she was “very interested in her use of traditional painting mixed with multimedia and how the two are combined.”
Fine arts senior Robin Karnes said she was impressed with how historical Baca was in her art and how her relationship with her hometown has influenced her art.
“I think that her understanding of her community and where she comes from, her quest for knowledge is great, and it’s visible in what she does as well,” she said.
In closing, Baca said that “the land has memory.”
“We must tell our stories, and teach the young to tell our stories in any language that they speak.”