Barbara Masterson: Farmworkers

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Barbara Masterson: Farmworkers

Barbara Masterson’s plein air landscapes have been shown in galleries, museums and other venues throughout the Hudson Valley and beyond for more than 20 years. In 2015, the retired art teacher, a lifelong artist, decided to include the farmworkers in a landscape she was painting—a seemingly casual decision that changed the very nature of her art and has had a profound effect on her life, as well.

These workers are our country’s invisible population, unseen despite planting, weeding, harvesting, and packing fruits and vegetables throughout our region. These people do the jobs that most Americans won’t do, yet [they] might face deportation.

As she began to focus more on painting the workers than on the landscape, “My studio work transformed,” she explains. “I returned to traditional oil paint and brush from oil sticks. And I began to paint on a much larger scale.”

Using photographs as the basis for large-scale portraits (a practice she says allows her to have more interaction with the workers), Masterson says she began to see changes in her approach to art as well.

“Getting to know and then paint them changed my perspective on my work and forged my commitment to knowing them as people, not merely as faceless workers,” she says. “My paintings ask the viewer to come closer to know these human beings. These

workers are our country’s invisible population, unseen despite planting, weeding, harvesting, and packing fruits and vegetables throughout our region. Many are undocumented/illegal. These people do the jobs that most Americans won’t do, yet [they] might face deportation under the new administration. I want my art to honor their full lives as human beings and not only their world as working humans.”

I want my art to honor their full lives as human beings and not only their world as working humans.

Masterson has donated a portion of the proceeds from the sale of these works in two recent shows to the Worker Justice Center of New York and to the Rural Migrant Ministry. To learn more, visit barbaramasterson.com.   

—VT

 

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