Almost a year ago I was challenged by a fellow artist to “sew what I know”. She advised that if I created work that inspired me, I would in turn inspire others. With that in mind I want to share with you my latest piece. For those of you who do not recognize the original work, this piece is based on an iconic photograph by Depression Era photographer, Dorothea Lange. Her photo, Migrant Mother (1936), perfectly encapsulates the emotion of the Great Depression. I think I remember first seeing it in college, but it wasn’t until I had children of my own that I found myself identifying with the woman depicted.
Florence Thompson was the mother of seven children at the time this photograph was taken. She worked in the fields, following the harvest of the crops in California. When Dorothea came upon her, she and her family were stranded at a pea farm. The crops they hoped to pick were frozen and their car’s timing chain had snapped. The desperation Florence must have been feeling was perfectly captured in Dorthea’s photograph. What I have chosen to do is modernize this mother’s plight.
I left my chosen field to stay at home and raise my children full time back in 1995. Over the years I have returned to part time work here and there to help make ends meet and I have discovered something both daunting and depressing. Given no perks, no regular hours, no real direction and, worst of all, no trust, I found myself working as hard as I could in faceless system. All without hope for true advancement or to have a chance at meaningfully impacting our family’s finances. I have been fortunate that my husband has remained gainfully employed, and doubly so since he has provided for me the opportunity to return to school and create a new future for my family. I know many people do not have that option.
So that is why I recreated Dorothea Lange’s iconic photograph. In my opinion, the times haven’t changed all that much. Today my daughter and I saw a small tent community in the woods off a local highway. She asked why people were camping on a school day ….