For more than 60 years, Betty LaDuke has traversed the globe as an artist and activist, bringing her sketchbook and camera to hundreds of villages in Latin America, Asia, and Africa, as well as to remote Papa New Guinea and Borneo. These experiences have inspired LaDuke’s large acrylic paintings, prints, and panels exhibited in hundreds of art centers and museums across the United States. They also appear in unexpected places, like at entrance to airports in Portland and Medford, Oregon, where her large. colorful cutouts of local farm workers greet arriving and departing passengers.
LaDuke’s journey is long. In 1955, for example, she painted murals on the patio walls of Indigenous Otomi school in Mexico. In 2009, the humanitarian organization Heifer International commissioned LaDuke to develop 30 carved, shaped, wood mural panels, Dreaming Cows, for the Arkansas Education Center. Eight visits to Eritrea (1994 – 2002), interviewing women artists and presenting art workshops, led to a series of paintings, Eritrea Dreaming Peace, of which 21 are now part of Eritrea’s cultural heritage.
In Oregon, Bountiful Harvest, 28 wood panels, from a series of 78 celebrating local farms and farmworkers, are permanently installed at Oregon’s State Capitol, Rogue Valley International Airport, and at Oregon State University, Southern Oregon University, and Willamette University.
LaDuke has also documented women’s lives and creativity in books: Companeros: Women, Art, and Social Change in Latin America; Africa Through the Art of Women Artists; Women Artists: Multicultural Visions; and Bountiful Harvest: From Land to Table.
Fiercely independent, LaDuke rarely puts her work up for sale, believing it should be accessible to all.
Recently, five-foot tall Totem Witnesses (inspired by Native American totem poles) and brilliant, fantastical turtles — carrying wisdom on their backs — fill LaDuke’s studio. They have yielded a new exhibit: Fire, Fury and Resilience: Totem Witnesses and Turtle Wisdom. An additional exhibit, featuring 20 turtles alone, captures the personal, political, and playful messages LaDuke brings to Turtle Wisdom.
The retrospective Bringing the World Together includes paintings, prints, panels, and photographs from LaDuke’s work, 1953 – 2020.
LaDuke’s latest exhibit at the Coos Art Museum in Coos Bay, Oregon (April to June 2023) brings together pieces from Fire, Fury and Resilience: Totem Witnesses and Turtle Wisdom along with a new collection titled Social Justice Revisited.