Susie Bertaux, Monterey County painting
Medium: oil on canvas
Surface: Canvas, unframed with painted edges
Width: 24 inches
Height: 30 inches
Depth: 1 inch
CERTIFICATE OF AUTHENTICITY
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©2020 Paul Richmond
Susie Bertaux, Monterey County
“Executive Order 9066 decreed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt sent about 120,000 citizens of Japanese ancestry to internment/concentration camps to the interior of the United States from 1942-1946. These Americans of Japanese descent were stripped of their rights and property under the guise of national security, all but their right to vote, sort of...
Wanting to prove they were true and loyal Americans, these citizens tried to maintain their right to vote. Lots of rules and regulations were established by the Federal Government and voting was decided for absentee voting from the state of their former residence. Some states simply denied their rights saying they were enemy aliens. None the less, ballots were cast in each of the 10 internment camps but not all ballots reached their intended locations for various reasons.
I was born in 1945 in Chicago, IL because my parents did not ‘go to camp,’ but they did relocate, getting a sponsor for a job and a place to live outside of the “Exclusion Area.” My parents’ siblings and parents went to these camps, losing their jobs, businesses, and giving up their college education. By their example, I realize the importance of my right to vote. Even though my family members’ rights to ‘Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness’ were taken away, they found a way to cast their ballots even though they met with lots of resistance, it was one way they could prove to themselves and the rest of the country that it is a privilege to be a Citizen of the United States. Voting is a responsibility of that privilege.”
“Someone struggled for your right to vote. Use it.” -SUSAN B. ANTHONY
Voting rights in the United States have a complicated history, with numerous regulations implemented to prohibit people from participating based on gender, ethnicity, religion, immigration status, age, and more. Yet the right to vote is frequently taken for granted in our modern society, with only 54% of eligible voters taking part in the 2016 election.
In this series of oil paintings, I am choosing to portray individuals from historically disenfranchised groups who would have been denied the right to vote at some point in our nation’s history. Some of the models are still unable to vote today. Each figure is painted on top of collaged ballots and voting pamphlets from a significant election in their group’s history. For example, the background for a female model might be comprised of 1920 ballots - the first election in which women could vote. Each piece is titled with the individual’s name and voting district, and is accompanied by a quote about the significance of voting to them.
This series represents a stylistic departure from my recent work. I’ve been painting in a thick, impasto style with bold colors and expressive marks. In this series, to preserve elements of the collaged backgrounds, I am exploring a lighter touch - one that allows the figurative and textual elements to merge on the canvas. The marks and colors retain an expressive quality, but the outcome is more subtle.
My aim is to create a sense of connection with the subject, evoking empathy and awareness of our common humanity. By portraying marginalized individuals and highlighting their unique perspectives as well as their group’s struggle for voting rights, I hope to inspire viewers to consider the importance of their own participation in our country’s election process.