The Work of Betty LaDuke

July 15th, 2006 by admin

pcard3sm.gifSince 1972 Betty LaDuke, a Professor of Art at Southern Oregon State College, has traveled the world in search of inspiration. During the years 1985-92 Ms. LaDuke traveled in Nigeria, Cote d’Ivoire, Cameroon, Ghana, Senegal, Mali, Egypt, Morocco, Togo and Benin. These travels, and most importantly, the lives of the women she encountered, inspired the works pictured here.

pcard6sm.gifFeminist Perspective

Ms. LaDuke’s art is strongly influenced by her feminist perspective. In a search to understand women and women artists from less industrialized nations, she explores archetypes–universal motifs which weave through her work. There is the woman in her primary biological role as the physical and spiritual nurturer of children, as expressed in her works “Spirit Mother” and “Corn-Mothers.”

draw2sm.gifThis nurturing becomes a metaphor for womanhood–women surrounded by children, literally composed of children. The archetype of the woman as healer is a frequent theme in her images. Another archetype, the women in their economic roles as farmers, artists, and market women comes to bear in many of her works, among them the mystical “Gathering Soul.” Women as goddesses is another motif, perhaps best illustrated by “Spirit Mother.” All of the women in LaDuke’s paintings are assertive, strong, and grounded, which is emphasized by the artist’s bold choice of colors and her rhythmic compositions.


Color and Shapes

Through color, shapes, and complex composition, LaDuke’s images communicate with the viewer in a mystic

al way. Flowing, organic forms which capture the eye and the rich palette of bold colors in fact seem to romanticize the life of women in Africa today. In all their intricate detail and complexity, the images create a sense of natural flow, a sense of the meaning of being a woman in Africa, and tell stories.

pcard4sm.gifWriting in the introduction to Multi-Cultural Celebrations, the Paintings of Betty LaDuke 1972-1992, Gloria Feman Orenstein states that LaDuke “becomes a storyteller” in her paintings. Ms. Orenstein continues “. . . Betty LaDuke incarnates the role of the storyteller in our culture as she both writes and paints the stories of women artists and indigenous peoples from all over the globe in her books and in her art in order to awaken us in the West to our own political, spiritual, and ecological plight.”

The pictures here are copyright Betty LaDuke and areused by permission of the artist. Ms. LaDuke can be contacted at her studio, 610 Long Way, Ashland, OR 97520 USA.


Multi-Cultural Celebrations: Paintings

by Betty LaDuke 1972-1992 features additional paintings inspired by Ms. LaDuke’s travels in Africa, Asia and Latin America (POMEGRANATE, Rohnert Park, CA 94928 USA; tel: 800-227-1438). Notecards of the color prints shown here, are also available from POMEGRANATE.

Members of Friends of Cameroon can borrow the video “Africa Between Myth and Reality,” (introduced by Bruce Guenther) an upbeat, contemporary view of African life inspired by Ms. LaDuke’s ten years of travel in Africa.

Ms. LaDuke’s work is the subject of a video directed by Brian Varaday and entitled “Betty LaDuke: An Artist’s Journey fromthe Bronx to Timbuktu” (Media Center, Southern Oregon State College, Ashland, OR 97520, USA and Reading & O’Reilly, Wilton, CT 06897 USA; tel: 800-458-4275)


You can see more of Ms. LaDuke’s work on-line by visiting the Betty LaDuke home page. Exhibit Touring Services has incorporated some of Ms. LaDuke’s work in its exhibitions.

Ms. LaDuke has written about women artists from all over the world. Some titles include:

  • Compa–eras: Women, Art, and Social Change in Latin America

    City Lights Books, San Francisco, CA USA (tel: 800-274-7826)

  • Africa Through the Eyes of Women Artists

    Africa World Press, Lawrence, NJ USA (tel: 609-844-9583)

  • Women Artists, Multicultural Visions

    Red Sea Press, Lawrence, NJ USA (tel: 609-844-9583)

  • “Presistent Women Artists: Pablita Velarde, Mine Okubo, and Lois Mailou Jones,”

    A video presented by Betty LaDuke and directed by Brian Varaday
    Media Center, Southern Oregon State College, Ashland, OR 97520, USA and Reading & O’Reilly, Wilton, CT 06897 USA (tel: 800-458-4275)